EU firms lash out at new net privacy rules

EU firms fear tech giants like Google will have even more power once the new rules come into force
EU firms fear tech giants like Google will have even more power once the new rules come into force

Dozens of European media, telecom and internet firms criticised Wednesday the EU's new online privacy rules, saying they will effectively hand US tech giants even greater power over user data.

On May 25, the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into force.

It is designed to protect users' online privacy, but in an open letter titled "Europe cannot afford to miss the data revolution", the companies said it will "reinforce already dominant players in the data economy".

In their view, the rules "would threaten the development of European startups and innovative companies, , telecom operators, and other sectors alike; and would undermine the essential role of press and media in European democratic life".

The European Parliament has adopted the regulation but European governments have yet to approve the text.

Under the new regulation, users will be asked once and for all whether to accept cookies, rather than every time they visit a new website.

Users will have the option of going invisible online, while the rules enshrine the so-called "right to be forgotten" legislation.

But the European Commission is concerned over the lack of awareness among both users and small firms of the imminent change.

Who says no to cookies?

Furthermore, it is unclear whether the bulk of users would ever opt out of allowing cookies while browsing—leaving them at the mercy of targeted advertising from the very tech giants that power their browsing and social media experiences.

While Google, Apple and Facebook are based in the United States, they will also have to apply the new regulations to their European users.

Nonetheless, the European firms fear they will bear the brunt of the changes, potentially depriving EU advertisers of user information they need to connect to consumers.

Among the signatories of the letter is a leading French association, the SPQN—of which AFP is a member.

Other signatories include French telecom giants Orange and SFR, German group Deutsche Startups and the European Magazine Media Association.

Speaking to AFP, data company France Digitale's co-chair Jean-David Chamboredon said: "We risk handing over the total monopoly to some operators, which will always find a way to collect ."

The US tech giants already an outsize role in the French online advertising market, capturing a whopping 92 percent of the sector's growth in 2017.

Explore further

Facebook to launch privacy center ahead of EU regulations

© 2018 AFP

Citation: EU firms lash out at new net privacy rules (2018, March 7) retrieved 19 July 2019 from
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Mar 07, 2018
The tech giants, like Google, are deliberately building websites that break without the use of cookies in order to have an excuse. Try disabling cookies and browse to Youtube: "I'm sorry, you have to accept this privacy policy before we let you see anything".

Saving local data for tracking purposes should always be opt-in instead of opt-out, and websites which offer persistence between visits can have a simple "save preferences" button that does not require any logins or user accounts - it can be done completely anonymously.

The deeper problem is that the online ad-economy is a compete scam. There's no public control over it at any level. The money that is spent on advertising is paid by you, in the prices of products you need to purchase, and you have no part in negotiating that price - you just get pushed irrelevant spam everywhere you go, by websites serving you clickbait and tricking you into downloading more ads.

And the irony is that the ads don't work.

Mar 07, 2018
Also, if you disable the tracking servers, such as blocking Google Analytics on 3rd party websites that have no business in forwarding your information to Google, the actual Google services break down even further.

For example, I can no longer see any comments on Youtube videos even if I do allow temporary cookies to the website. I cannot log on to my Google account while I'm blocking their tracking servers, so I have to choose between using Google's websites, and using any other website while avoiding being tracked absolutely everywhere.

That's bad behaviour. It means I have to accept Google spying on me, or lose the use of almost everything they provide. This is problematic for me, because I have an Android phone which is of course tied to Google in a very fundamental way, so I -have- to use their services to some extent. Without doing some risky and inconvenient 3rd party modifications, losing warranty,I simply can't avoid having a Google account.

Mar 07, 2018
I mean, what are my alternatives? Buy an iPhone for five times the price? Get locked into another gilded cage?

Google is a prime example of a company that is abusing it's dominant market position in a multifaceted way. They've carved themselves a niche where they can effectively ignore your rights and privacy, and they're doing everything to guard that position.

"Don't be evil" - my ass.

Mar 08, 2018
Ads do work. That's why it's a multi-billion dollar industry. If they didn't work, then companies wouldn't pay for them.
Targeting advertising works even better because the very people that might be interested are the ones seeing the ads.
Websites need data on their users in order to better sell targeting advertisements.
Making laws to make it more difficult gives an unfair advantage to bigger companies because they know how to get around the law and already have a huge database of information on their users.
People are tricked into supporting these laws because they think it'll protect privacy, which is hardly true.

Mar 09, 2018
Ads do work.

No they don't. Everybody in the industry knows that the clickthrough rates for ads are abysmal, and they only go up temporarily when they introduce a new flashing annoyance and then go back again as people learn to ignore it.

The effect is called "banner blindness" and it's supported by eye-tracking studies done on people. About 85% of people simply don't look at the ads, since they've learned to identify the typical ad banners from website content and automatically skip over.

That's why it's a multi-billion dollar industry. If they didn't work, then companies wouldn't pay for them.

That's the trick. The companies, and by proxy the consumers, are paying billions for nothing. Yet no company dares -not- to advertise online. This is not a question of rational choice. Targeted ads are just another one of those bullshit reasons that companies like Google give to companies to claim that -their- ads work, even as they don't.

Mar 09, 2018

Results showed that only 14% of respondents recalled the last display ad they saw and the company or product it promoted. Even with today's sophisticated targeting technology, relevance remains a key challenge with only 2.8% of respondents stating that they thought the ad they saw was relevant to them.

The problem with targeted ads is obvious. If I'm googling for bicycles, google will be showing me ads of bicycles for months after I've already bought one - completely regardless of the ads that google showed me.

The advertisement is almost always irrelevant, because it cannot predict what I might want in the future, and I don't want to give some company so much private information about myself that they could literally predict what I'm going to buy. That's going too far.

So companies are paying for ads merely from superstition - because it might work, sometimes, maybe.

Mar 09, 2018
The problem is that measuring whether your ad campaigns actually are effective is almost impossible. Did your sales go up 3% because you put a million into online ads, or because some celebrity was seen wearing your product?

Dunno. There's not enough statistical evidence to call the difference, so online advertising is mostly faith-based business.

Mar 09, 2018
The main arguments for online advertising are;

a) novel (more annoying) forms of advertising like weaving the adverts into the text of an article trick the visitors into reading the message.

b) the subliminal argument, which is basically woo-pseudoscience, but company execs still believe that you can hypnotize people into buying their stuff

One thing to notice is that both arguments for why online ads still work, despite being proven not to work, are based on unethical means of delivering the message. Even as/if they do work, that's a shitty thing to do.

Another question entirely is whether companies should be pushing ads at all. Advertising is justified as necessary for providing information, so consumers could make rational choices, but the way companies advertise hasn't got anything to do with rational choice. Some sort of company catalog that lists providers and products would support rational choice - not an advert that says "drinking soda makes you cool!"

Mar 09, 2018
Besides, for advertising in general, the only types of ads that really work are generic brand ads that provide no information to the consumers, but instead are aimed directly at saturating the consumers' consciousness with the brand name.

If you see "Samsung" everyhere, you're more likely to buy a Samsung phone simply because you don't know of any other brand and it would take extra effort to learn.

That also means advertising becomes a bidding war between companies who try to buy all the slots and prevent consumers from seeing their competitors' ads, to the benefit of companies like Google who obviously sell to the highest bidder. Even as your ads provide neglible benefit, they at least block people from seeing your competitor's ads, and if you stop advertising then the other guys win.

So the cost of advertising goes up and up and up, and we're the ones who ultimately pay the price.

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