[IRP] Brussels over ad tracking
Wed Sep 16 12:54:43 EEST 2009
By Chris Williams ? Get more from this author
Posted in Government, 15th September 2009 11:07 GMT
Google, Microsoft and other special interests are subjecting the
European Commission to the most intense lobbying campaign it has ever
faced, over regulation of how data is used to target advertising
online, according to officials in Brussels.
Commissioner Meglena Kuneva announced in March that her department
would investigate whether it should intervene to protect consumers
from potential harm caused by digital advertising companies tracking
them across the web.
In response, dozens of representatives of technology, advertising and
publishing have now bombarded the Commission with familiar suggestions
that self-regulation is the best system for internet industries.
"Of all the topics we've covered this has generated the biggest
industry response," an offical close to Kuneva told The Register.
"We've never known anything like it," she added.
Brussels aims to produce a green paper based on its research early
next year, although the current cohort of Commissioners are due for
reappointment or replacement before the end of this year, which may
delay the draft.
A similar lobbying frenzy is expected on Capitol Hill, where
Congressman last week signalled they don't believe self-regulation
will be adequate to protect consumers from tracking by online
commercial interests. Laws are being considered to insist on explicit
opt-in consent for some technologies and sensitive types of data, such
as financial histories.
Kuneva's research is wrestling with similar issues. She and her team
will visit Washington in early October to meet Obama's new FTC
chairman Jon Leibowitz and consumer organisations to discuss their
"The aim of the trip in the behavioural targeting aspect is to discuss
possible approaches to shared concerns," an official said.
"The US has adopted a self regulatory approach so far and we want to
hear about that experience. Do they think it is sufficient? Obviously
some in Congress think it is not."
Kuneva's consumer rights investigation is separate to ongoing legal
action against the UK government by telecoms Commissioner Viviane
Reding over its alleged failure to properly implement European laws.
The claimed enforcement loophole around interception was highlighted
last year when The Register revealed BT had twice secretly trialled
behavioural targeting technology provided by Phorm.
The resulting outcry and public opposition to the deep packet
inspection effectively shut down Phorm's UK ambitions for the
forseeable future. Other forms of behavioural targeting, such as
Google's website display ad tracking cookies, which opt every user in
by default, are already deployed. ?
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