The EU has been working with social media companies to comply with new regulations protecting consumer privacy on social media called the General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR. It will begin enforcement of the act in May, the commissioner leading the privacy protection effort, Vera Jourva found that both Google and Facebook were implementing software features to support the new regulation. The GDPR regulations seek to limit the actions of huge social media companies to take control of customer data in exchange for services. The regulations require that an affirmative consent be obtained before all social media companies can give access to users to their advertising clients.
Google has told website owners and app publishers they must explicitly obtain user’s consent for targeted ads or they will be cut off from the Google ad network. Facebook has placed pop pages on it European sites to invite users to affirm their receptivity to targeted ads. Their marketing clout has put small ad tech companies that work directly with site providers in bind as advertisers don’t want users hit with many consent pop ads from multiple sites. Google and Facebook make it easy and simple for digital advertisers to reach their audiences with targeted ads with one permission screen. The two social media behemoths are forcing many ad tech companies into a difficult position with their clients, and some may go out of business
Source: The Wall Street Journal – 4/23/18
Google and Facebook track the majority of web page loads for surveillance of users and targeting ads. This means they have unchecked marketing power with advertisers and users to promote their digital channels to the exclusion of other players.
Frankly, the EU regulations don’t go far enough, the law should establish that users own their content and they license its use to the social media corporations for certain limited business purposes. Besides explicit consent for allowing tracking, users should be able to opt out of tracking if they want and still be able to use the service – leaving advertisers to reach users when they are only on their site. We don’t allow cable broadcasters to track their viewers (even though digitally they know who is watching) and place ads based on what channel they are watching. Targeted advertising is a form of spying on the users, and needs to stop. Google and Facebook should make their consent information available to websites that use their services to make a level playing field on ad networks as well. We need to carefully examine the business processes of these new giant companies to ensure that market rules are setup for a level playing field for all participants and further review breaking up services where undue market clout is being exercised. For example, Google has over 7 different services which 1 billion people use at least once per month. A detailed investigation should be conducted by the DOJ to evaluate the anti-trust and public good issues inherent in such market power. We note in our blog on Identity Theft that corporations need to be held accountable for securing our content and they have a fiduciary responsibility to us to safeguard our content for us as content owners.