EDPS calls for consideration of an ultimate ban on targeted advertising based on pervasive tracking

February 10, 2021

The European Data Protection Supervisor has published Opinions on the European Commission’s proposals for a Digital Services Act and a Digital Markets Act. Both Opinions aim to assist the EU legislators to shape a digital future rooted in EU values, including the protection of individuals’ fundamental rights, such as the right to data protection.

The EDPS welcomes the proposal for a Digital Services Act and supports its aims of promoting a transparent and safe online environment. In his Opinion, the EDPS recommends additional measures to better protect individuals when it comes to content moderation, online targeted advertising and recommender systems used by online platforms, such as social media and marketplaces. He says that content moderation should take place in accordance with the rule of law. Given the already endemic monitoring of individuals’ behaviour, particularly in the context of online platforms, the DSA should delineate when efforts to combat “illegal content” legitimise the use of automated means to detect, identify and address illegal content. Profiling for purposes of content moderation should be prohibited unless the provider can demonstrate that such measures are strictly necessary to address the systemic risks explicitly identified by the DSA.

Furthermore, the European legislators should consider a ban on online targeted advertising based on pervasive tracking as well as introducing restrictions in relation to the categories of data that can be processed for targeting purposes and the categories of data that may be disclosed to advertisers or third parties to enable or facilitate targeted advertising. 

In accordance with the requirements of data protection by design and by default, recommender systems should by default not be based on profiling. Given their significant impact, the EDPS also recommends additional measures to further promote transparency and user control in relation to recommender systems.

More generally, the EDPS recommends introducing minimum interoperability requirements for very large online platforms and to promote the development of technical standards at European level, in accordance with the applicable EU legislation on European standardisation.

In his Opinion on the Digital Markets Act, the EDPS welcomes the European Commission’s proposal that seeks to promote fair and open digital markets and the fair processing of personal data by regulating large online platforms acting as gatekeepers.

The EDPS highlights the importance of fostering competitive digital markets so that individuals have a bigger choice of online platforms and services that they can use. Giving users better control over their personal data can reinforce contestability in digital markets. Increased interoperability can help to address user lock-in and ultimately create opportunities for services to offer better data protection.

To guarantee the successful implementation of the European Commission’s Digital Services Act package, the EDPS calls for a clear legal basis and structure for closer cooperation between the relevant oversight authorities, including data protection authorities, consumer protection authorities and competition authorities.