Newsletter March 2021 – Digital Services Act: Will there be a ban on personalised advertising?

On 15 December 2020, the European Commission published a draft Regulation concerning the digital economy (the so-called “Digital Services Act”). Among other things, the proposed new law deals with online advertising. It requires online advertisers to disclose their identity for as well as the factors that have led to a certain advertisement being shown to a user. The “Tracking-Free Ads Coalition”, which was founded among EU Parliamentarians a few days ago, is calling for a complete ban on personalised advertising, while a restriction on the use of sensitive data, an automatic do-not-track mechanism, or a ban on third-party tracking are also being discussed.

But it is not only the “Tracking-Free Ads Coalition” that is proposing such a ban: Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner has also called for it in an open letter to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

It seems surprising that the head of a press publisher would make such a statement. After the failure of the ancillary copyright for press publishers in Germany and Spain, new steps are being taken in other countries, including France and Australia, aiming to ‘return’ parts of the tech corporations’ profits to the press publishers. However, a complete ban on personalised advertising could cost press publishers up to two thirds of their current advertising revenue. In addition, it would affect small and medium businesses that rely on personalised advertising to reach their local target audiences, according to Moritz Körner, a German  member of parliament. Whether we willll see personalised ads for much longer remains to be seen: The final draft of the Digital Services Act probably will not enter into force before 2022.