A draft committee report recently released from the European Union Parliament shows some MEPs are ready to eliminate targeted political ads.
The report responds to a proposal from the EU Commission, from November 2021, which intended to “lay down harmonised rules for a high level of transparency of political advertising.” In particular, the type of political advertising that uses psychographic information to manipulate public opinion came under scrutiny.
Concerns about highly targeted political ads were raised in 2018 following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, when it was revealed that big tech companies such as Google and Facebook had sold detailed user data gathered by tracking users across the Internet to third parties, who then used the information to more precisely target voters.
The Commission’s proposed regulation would rein in targeted advertising by restricting the ways data could be used in political advertising and requiring more transparency about the strategies used in political ad campaigns. It would also require advertising agencies to disclose any financial compensation they received for political ad campaigns, and to disclose the source that sponsored the ad.
Additionally, the report addressed concerns about foreign interference in elections and referendums by restricting sponsorship of political ads to those either residing within EU member states or to citizens of EU member states.
The biggest change in the Commission’s proposal is found in the amendments that would prohibit political ad campaigns from using the profiling and tracking data gathered off the internet—available whenever an internet surfer clicks the default ‘accept’ to a website’s data collection policy. If the proposal passes, campaigns would be limited to using data the voters themselves have disclosed, such as gender, age, location, and language.
Liberal Hungarian MEP Anna Donáth from the Renew Europe group is leading the civil liberties committee revisions to the Commission’s proposal, Politico reports.
The new regulation could be in place for the 2024 EU parliamentary elections.