Privacy and advertising — Issues with GDPR, cookies and targeting ads

March 7, 2018

Privacy is a concept that is being widely discussed, amid news reports about various companies that take advantage of users’ data to target ads in the best possible way.

There are companies using religious beliefs or political outlooks to reach their customers with advertising, raising concerns about privacy and questions such as: “Is my data secure anywhere on the web?”, “How is my private data being used and why?” or even advertising related questions such as “How do they know that I was looking for this product?”.

The European Union defined a set of rules intended to help protect customer data and put an end to a situation in which huge amounts of data are being moved outside the European Union. This set of rules is called GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and will be in force in less than 3 months’ time (25 May), creating concerns for companies, especially small ones, that if they fail to comply could face fines of up to 20 million euros or 4% of global annual turnover in the previous financial year, whichever is higher.

What does this actually mean for Digital Marketing and the way that ads target customers? Will there be any significant change?

One of the things that is likely to be reduced is the use of Cookies identifying the user as well as the way that you accept them changing the way that until now cookies have typically been attached automatically, meaning that you might now see far fewer messages such as “By using this website, you accept cookies” .

In order to respect the GDPR websites will also need to provide easy-to-access options to opt out if they have previously accepted the use of cookies. That then rules out following a specific user across the internet, and instead calls for more customised ad placement.

When placing ads online many companies have tended to use blacklists containing a set of websites where they do not want the ad to appear. With the new restrictions on following customers’ steps through the web, advertisers will in future certainly focus more on Website whitelisting and choosing the right place to interact with potential customers, rather than specifying where they do not want to be. This process actually has few advantages, such as:

These are some of the changes that are likely to take place in the next few months but several others might be expected, especially related to new technologies such as the public blockchain, which will probably clash with some GDPR principles.

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