Soon the end of advertisements based on private data?

On January 20, the European Parliament presented its position on the draft digital services legislation.

The vote, which won a large majority, was held under the EU's content moderation bill, the Digital Services Act (DSA).

Controlling the digital giants

Objective: to ensure that platforms such as Facebook or Google no longer base their advertising on private data.

The text, which paves the way for final negotiations with EU member states, seeks to crack down on illegal content and regulate online advertising.

Two missions that require the imposition of regulations on platform algorithms.

Companies that violate these provisions may be fined up to 6% of their annual turnover.

Protect and support user privacy

The parliamentarians approved a very specific amendment.

The latter aims to oblige online platforms to ensure that users who refuse to share their data can always have other options for accessing services.

This means that a platform like Instagram could not force its users to be followed to see the posts on its app.

The European Parliament has also underlined its desire to ban targeted ads based on sensitive data.

More specifically, on religious beliefs, sexual orientation and racial or ethnic origin.

Indeed, the DSA plans to introduce safeguards to identify sexual abuse or images disseminated without the consent of individuals in pornographic content shared by users.

The text would also like to impose “enhanced transparency” on the algorithms used by the platforms.

A necessary update

Since the adoption of the e-commerce directive in 2000, the rules governing the provision of digital services in the EU have remained largely unchanged.

And this, "as digital technologies and business models continue to rapidly evolve and new societal challenges emerge", adds the official document.

In this context, in 2020, the European Commission presented a new legislative proposal on a digital services act.

This is the Digital Services Act.

This seeks to amend the e-commerce directive and set higher standards of transparency and accountability.

The end goal is to "govern how platform service providers moderate content, advertising, and algorithmic processes."

Following this presentation, EU lawmakers had to assess whether this proposal was an appropriate response to the challenges identified.

On January 20, MEPs voted in favor of an amended version of the DSA, by 530 votes against 78 (and 80 abstentions).

This result is a first step in the EU's interinstitutional legislative process.

Refusals and updates

MEPs supplemented certain aspects of the Commission's text.

They thus wish to ban the collection of data used for the purpose of targeting minors or vulnerable people.

The amendments also aim to introduce a compensation procedure for users harmed by platforms.

In addition, an amendment concerning the media.

This aimed to require platforms to notify media organizations of content moderation decisions based on their terms and conditions, and to give them a chance to challenge those decisions, before taking action.

However, MPs voted for online platforms to be required to respect “media freedom and pluralism”.

The final rules could come into force as early as 2023.

A legislative battle far from over

Following this vote, the stages of the legislative process are still long.

Indeed, a phase of negotiation is now under way with the Member States.

Concretely, the legislators will now have to negotiate with the Council.

These discussions should then lead to a final version of the text which will again be submitted to the vote of MEPs.

France, at the head of the Council, has already expressed its reluctance regarding these new confidentiality rules.

By way of illustration, we must remember the event organized by the Atlantic Council on January 12th.

France's digital minister, Cédric O, said limits on targeted advertising could "impede the pace and progress" of passing EU technology laws.

But this January 20, the French government seems to be adopting a new vision.

Indeed, the French government welcomed the result of the MEPs' vote.

On January 18, US lawmakers introduced a bill with similar provisions.

This prohibits technology platforms and data brokers from using sensitive information to serve their advertisements.

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