Study on the impact of recent developments in digital advertising on privacy, publishers and advertisers
European Commission, Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology,
Written by: Armitage, Catherine; Botton, Nick; Dejeu-Castang, Louis; Lemoine, Laureline
Publications Office of the European Union
30 January 2023
Executive Summary (11 pages) – Full Report (274 pages)
This study has collated evidence which on balance indicates a strong case to reform digital advertising. It indicates that the status quo is unsustainable for individuals, publishers and advertisers. Digital advertising that relies on the collection of personal data, tracking and massive-scale profiling can have unintended consequences on data protection rights, security, democracy and the environment. But there is little independent evidence to support claims that the use of extensive tracking and profiling yields a significant advantage compared to digital advertising models which don’t do this. This strengthens the position of players who have the most control over and insight into people’s behaviour online and weakens the ability of others, especially advertisers and publishers, to communicate directly to their customers. It has also created an accountability crisis, where individuals are expected to navigate a complex web of companies in order to control the types of ads they see online. This study points to gaps in the regulatory framework which could enable many of the issues highlighted to persist. There is a need to improve transparency and accountability, increase individuals’ control over how their personal data is used for digital advertising and address a number of obstacles that make it harder for advertisers and publishers to “know their audience”.
> Short article by the European Publishers Council