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Advertising tech may be breaking the law: UK report

Paul Brislen, Editor. 24 June 2019, 7:02 am

Social media advertising is coming under threat from EU and UK regulators following a report that suggests much of their data gathering is illegal.

The UK's data protection regulator has released a report outlining major concerns with a key component of social media advertising.

Real-time bidding is widely used in advertising circles and requires Facebook and Google among others to profile web users via a series of tracking technologies, such as cookies. According to the UK regulator, that's a breach of EU's General Data Protection Rules (GDPR).

Tech Crunch suggests there have been multiple complaints filed with both EU and UK regulators about the practice, which forms the core of social media advertising. By tracking users' movements around the web, both on and off social media sites, these companies gain valuable insights into a user's viewing habits - something many find invasive and which are difficult to avoid.

"The adtech industry appears immature in its understanding of data protection requirements," says the report.

"Whilst the automated delivery of ad impressions is here to stay, we have general, systemic concerns around the level of compliance of RTB."

The report says explicit consent is not being gathered for each tracking unit and there is a lack of transparency around what is tracked, how it's stored, how it's used and how long it is retained.

The report suggests other companies are more than able to comply with the rules but for some reasons the advertising technology and social media industry does not.

The EU introduced its GDPR regulation last year, following a period of bedding in, and a number of companies have already been fined for failing to comply. Calls in New Zealand for increased privacy regulation along similar lines went unheard during the government's review of the Privacy Act - following the Christchurch shootings, however, calls are increasing for the select committee to revisit its decisions.


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