Lawmakers in the European Parliament have been working on a new proposal for a ban on the targeting of minors and the processing of sensitive data, seen by EURACTIV.
Parliament’s rapporteur, Social Democratic MEP Christel Schaldemose, committed to developing a new compromise text on the restrictions for targeted advertising at the last high-level meeting with the French government, which currently chairs the EU Council representing the member states, and the European Commission on 31 March.
The French EU Council presidency agreed to the Parliament’s request to ban advertising targeting minors and using sensitive data as part of a broader deal on the Digital Markets Act, the sister proposal of the DSA (Digital Services Act) proposal.
In the last three-way negotiations, the co-legislators found an agreement ‘in principle’, but MEPs took it on themselves to draft a new proposal as they were not satisfied with previous compromises from the French Presidency and the Commission. The new proposal is still up for discussion between the different political groups.
According to a source informed on the matter, centre-right lawmakers found that the proposal goes too far, while left-to-centre MEPs think it does not go far enough, which might suggest the right balance had been reached.
The new provisions would apply to all online platforms, instead of only the very large ones with 45 million users in the EU as proposed by the French Presidency.
Ban on targeting minors
“Personal data of minors collected by online platforms shall not be processed for commercial purposes related to presenting behaviourally targeted advertising to minors,” reads the new Article 24.
The text stresses that compliance with this obligation should not lead to the processing of additional personal information of minors to verify the users’ age. Age verification has been one of the key questions in this debate.
In case the platform is in doubt whether a user is a minor or not, the approach should be the more protective one, applying the ban. In other words, the ban on targeted ads would be the default unless the platform is certain the user is not a minor.
The new text does not include a definition of minors as requested by several EU countries.
Ban on processing sensitive data
The article also includes a ban on targeted advertising based on the use of sensitive data as defined in the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), the EU privacy law, which includes information about race, sexual orientation, religious beliefs or trade union participation.
The French Presidency merely proposed to refer that sensitive data should be handled in accordance with the GDPR, which did not go far enough for EU lawmakers. Moreover, the Council’s text had these provisions in the preamble of the text, which is less legally binding than an article.
What remains to be seen is how this proposal will be received by the Council, which proposed to merely introduce a requirement to obtain the consent of the user for processing such data.
A member of civil society told EURACTIV that they supported the new text, but that it lacked a key part on inferring characteristics.
“Most often, ad interests do not explicitly use sensitive data but rather infer sensitive characteristics,” the civil society source said. “It is this practice that can so easily be weaponized and exploited by nefarious actors to target and manipulate people and the public debate. The sensitive data ban needs to close this loophole.”
The European Parliament proposed to move the paragraph concerning how data is monetized in the Codes of Conduct, voluntary agreements on responsibilities and practices.
The original paragraph required online platforms to allow users to make an easy and informed choice on whether to consent to the processing of their personal data for the purpose of advertising.
Therefore, the industry practice should be that the platforms would have to provide “meaningful information, including information about how their data will be monetized,” and ensure that “refusing consent shall be no more difficult or time-consuming to the recipient than giving consent.”
EURACTIV understands that the compromise text does not include the Parliament’s original positions on tracking walls in the spirit of compromise with the EU Council.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]