BRUSSELS— In response to today’s ruling by the Belgian Data Protection Authority on IAB Europe’s Transparency and Consent Framework violating the GDPR, the Center for Data Innovation released the following statement from senior analyst Benjamin Mueller:
Today’s ruling is a self-inflicted wound on the European Internet economy, which earns more than €16B per year from personalized ads.
The Transparency and Consent Framework (TCF) set up by IAB Europe is an open source standard that advertisers, publishers, and technology vendors use, to fairly and transparently obtain user consent to deliver targeted ads. Striking down the TCF will only increase the cost and complexity of online advertising for European businesses–costs that will ultimately be passed on to consumers. IAB Europe has continuously updated its framework in line with guidance from regulators and data protection experts. Now, one of the most widely used consent tools to comply with the GDPR is at risk of being shut down by regulators.
Privacy activists are celebrating what they deem a crucial win in their fight against online personalized ads. What they call “creepy ads,” however, are a core part of the Internet economy. Thousands of European publishers and app developers monetize their content by allowing advertisers to tailor their offerings to users. While GDPR was supposed to set clear and consistent rules around the use of data, it is instead turning into a slow-motion ban on targeted advertising. This does not improve user privacy, which is safeguarded by the GDPR and its consent requirements. Instead, banning targeted ads creates a stealth tax on European businesses that want to reach new customers online. SMEs and startups in particular benefit from targeted advertising, which is an affordable and effective form of marketing given its ability to tailor ads to specific users. It is a shame that regulators interpret GDPR so strictly as to make life impossible for European businesses that want to take advantage of data-driven ads. Virtually any website that seeks to generate income through such ads now risks falling foul of the law. The only winners from this situation are large businesses that can afford the considerable expense of non-targeted advertising and websites with large user bases that collect personal data inside their walled gardens.