Action is being taken to increase transparency on the processing of users’ personal data on the internet, but the main digital advertisers still rely on intrusive practices that try to influence people’s behaviors. European regulation on data protection could mitigate the issue, but its enforcement is limited
By Andreas Vou
Just about everyone is aware of internet cookies from the incessant messages that appear when opening up almost any website, yet the extent of their influence on users through behavioral data collection remains grossly underestimated, not only bearing various privacy concerns, but also social, political and even psychological threats.
Despite certain regulations looking to clampdown on intrusive practices, as we will cover, companies like Google and Facebook are finding new ways to work around existing safeguards to continue pushing customers in the direction that will maximize profit through advertising and serve their socio-political interests.
First-party cookies are a basic form of code necessary for the functionality of most websites, remembering things like items in a shopping cart and login info. Third-party cookies, on the other hand, track and collect data on user activity across the web, from articles read, products viewed, time spent on each site, and which ads are clicked. This data forms a digital profile, which is sent to agencies that compete for ad space to reach relevant users. This happens through automated bidding, which accounts for more than 60 percent of global online advertising.
Online advertising in 2019 saw an annual growth of 12.3 percent in Europe, taking the total market value to €64.8 billion. Since 2013, the industry has doubled and an average of €4 billion has been added every year since 2006. The United Kingdom is Europe’s biggest market (€21.4 billion), followed by Germany (€9.4 billion) and France (€6.1 billion).