That being said, the advertising technology industry financially supports many of the online services we consumers rely daily. Many of the proposed regulations coming from EU academic community seem to take for granted the “Internet is free”. It’s free due to the advertising related economy which relies on data targeting. Imagine Facebook or Youtube acting like your telephone company – charging you for every photo view or “social media like” instead of showing you ads. Some people would be paying $200 a month for adding dumb political comments or cat videos. (Maybe not such a bad idea).
Companies develop content and software at great expense. Only 3% of users make purchases on free to play mobile games so those companies rely on advertising for the rest of their revenue to pay developers & designers so we can have fun. Media and news companies allow users to view free content in exchange for advertising.
We applaud many of the new regulations that enable individual control, transparency and permission for use of individuals data and the ability to opt-out. However, many of the proposed regulations seem to have little regard for the economics of how the Internet functions or the long term ramifications the regulations will have on their constituents.
A recent proposal for European Parliament details several issues Proposal on Privacy and Electronic Communications
Tracking walls and other take-it-or-leave-it choices
This one implies user consent and freedom of choice isn’t enough and wants to force companies to provide free content:
“On the internet, many companies offer people take-it-or-leave-it-choices regarding privacy. For instance, some websites install tracking walls (or ‘cookie walls’), barriers that visitors can only pass if they agree to being tracked. If people encounter such take-it-or-leave-it choices, they are likely to consent, even if they do not want to disclose data in exchange for using a website. We recommend that the EU lawmaker bans tracking walls, at least in certain circumstances. A complete ban would provide most legal clarity. Under a partial ban, tracking walls are prohibited under certain circumstances (a black list). For instance, state-funded websites, sites regarding health or other sensitive information, and sites with a monopoly-like position should not be allowed to install tracking walls. The black list should be complemented with a grey list, with circumstances in which a tracking wall is presumed to be illegal. The lawmaker should also adopt rules for take-it-or-leave-it choices regarding privacy in other contexts.”
- Proposed Regulation passed in a country/countries where technology/media companies don’t have a presence or where the economy is relatively immaterial.
- User privacy is secured – no tracking wall = no cookies which means no online advertising.
- Publishers like BBC, Wall Street Journal, and even games like Candy Crush enable immediate pay walls to charge consumers.
- Other publishers just block those countries IP addresses in their entirety leaving those citizens in a new Digital Dark Ages.
- Consumers revolt due to increased costs and lack of content.
- Regulators lose their jobs. New elected officials reverse the regulations.
- Publishers enable access again.
So who is to gain from Digital Dark Ages? One company that doesn’t rely on advertising.
We encourage regulators to take a balanced approach to ensure consumer privacy without increasing costs to these same individual.