[IRP] Brussels over ad tracking

Katitza Rodriguez katitza
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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