European Parliament passes huge clampdown on tracking ads

European Union
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The European Parliament, the legislative body for the European Union (EU), has voted in favor of its Digital Services Act (DSA), which seeks to limit the power of American internet giants such as Facebook, Amazon and Google

The vote – 530 for, 78 against, and 80 abstentions – is the latest salvo in the EU's increasing plans for reining in what it sees as over-powerful internet companies, following another vote that sought to limit the tracking of minors. 

The Digital Services Act covers online platforms and services, many of which are headquartered in America but operate with huge user bases in the EU and surrounding markets. The DSA as approved by the Parliament specifically limits ad targeting based sensitive personal data, dark patterns, and more. 


"[The] vote shows MEPs and EU citizens want an ambitious digital regulation fit for the future," said Christel Schaldemose, who is leading the Parliament's negotiation. "Much has changed in the 20 years since we adopted the e-commerce directive. Online platforms have become increasingly important in our daily life, bringing new opportunities, but also new risks."

"It is our duty to make sure that what is illegal offline is illegal online," she continued. "We need to ensure that we put in place digital rules to the benefit of consumers and citizens. Now we can enter into negotiations with the Council, and I believe we will be able to deliver on these issues”.

EU gets tough 

After levying several record fines in recent months, the EU is finally getting its legal ducks in a row in a bid to clamp down on what it sees as anti-competitive, overly intrusive behaviour by America giants. Voting on the Digital Markets Act (DMA), a separate bill that the EU Parliament is in the process of approving, will happen later. 

According to the EU, the DSA covers several key areas, including introducing mechanisms by which companies have to remove "illegal" content in a timely manner in a bid to reduce misinformation, increasing requirements on so-called very large online platforms (VLOPs), regulating online ad targeting, and clamping down on dark patterns. 

The scope and scale of the DSA (and associated DMA) are huge, perhaps the biggest effort yet by a substantial world power (outside of China) to regulate what happens in cyberspace. 

The DSA now heads to the EU Council, the executive arm, for further debate and discussion. 

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Max Slater-Robins has been writing about technology for nearly a decade at various outlets, covering the rise of the technology giants, trends in enterprise and SaaS companies, and much more besides. Originally from Suffolk, he currently lives in London and likes a good night out and walks in the countryside.