US proposal could consider a ban on targeted advertising

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Three US lawmakers  tabled on 18th January the Banning Surveillance Advertising Act, a proposal aimed at banning the use of personal data for targeted advertising. The legislation would effectively ban advertisers from using personal data other than broad location targeting. It would still allow for contextual advertising based on the type of content with which the user is interacting.

The draft bill was introduced at the initiative of three members of the US Congress, who have committed to building a bipartisan consensus. “With the introduction of the Ban Surveillance Advertising Act, advertisers will be forced to stop exploiting individuals’ online behaviour for-profit, and our communities will be safer as a result,” Senator Bowen said. The bill received the support of several NGOs, such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Consumer Federation of America, and privacy-friendly tech firms such as DuckDuckGo and Proton. Several privacy-sensitive academics also voiced their support, including Shoshana Zuboff, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism author, and Joan Donovan, research director at Harvard’s centre for media and politics.

“The bills would outright ban the business model currently underlying the Internet,” said Omer Tene, a partner at Goodwin law firm. “It could have both anticipated and unexpected effects on the dynamics of competition, resource allocation and content distribution online,” Tene added, arguing that the same tech giants the bill is intended to target might be those that benefit from it the most.

Nevertheless, for the three lawmakers targeted advertising is incompatible with human autonomy and democratic values. Societal harms range from sexual and racial discrimination to manipulation of voting behaviour and foreign interference.

In the EU, the European Commission has recently launched a proposal to regulate advertising for political purposes, introducing strict transparency requirements and banning the use of sensitive data such as political and sexual orientation, race and gender.

More information on Euractiv.com : https://www.euractiv.com/section/digital/news/washington-proposes-ban-on-targeted-ads/

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