The US government wants to ban targeted ads for good

Laptops showing website ads on a pink background
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Aa Amie)

A new bill has been put forth by Democrats in the US House and Senate that could drastically change the entire online advertising (opens in new tab) industry if passed.

The bill in question, known as the Banning Surveillance Advertising Act (opens in new tab), was introduced by Anna Eshoo and Jan Schakowsky in the House and Cory Booker in the Senate. If passed, it would severely limit the way in which Google, Facebook and tech companies serve targeted ads (opens in new tab) to users.

The Banning Surveillance Advertising Act would prohibit targeted advertising using protected class information such as race, gender and religion. However, it would also prevent online advertisers from using personal data purchased from data brokers (opens in new tab).

Google, Facebook, Twitter and other tech platforms would still be able to serve targeted ads based on a user's general location at the city or state level though. At the same time, “contextual advertising” based on the online content a user has interacted with would also still be allowed.

Surveillance advertising

In addition to banning targeted advertising, the bill would give the FTC (opens in new tab) and state attorneys general the power to enforce violations with fines of up to $5,000 per incident. These fines could quickly add up for large advertising firms and tech companies which would serve as an incentive for them to no longer serve targeted ads using a user's personal information.

Data brokers have the most to lose though as their entire business revolves around collecting data on users and selling it to companies so that they can deliver targeted ads. 

Democratic congresswoman from California and the bill's lead sponsor, Anna Eshoo provided further insight on the dangers posed by the business model currently used by online advertisers in a statement, saying:

“The ‘surveillance advertising’ business model is premised on the unseemly collection and hoarding of personal data to enable ad targeting. This pernicious practice allows online platforms to chase user engagement at great cost to our society, and it fuels disinformation, discrimination, voter suppression, privacy abuses, and so many other harms. The surveillance advertising business model is broken.”

We'll have to wait and see if the Banning Surveillance Advertising Act passes but in the meantime, you can still force data brokers to give up the data they have on you by using Surfshark's new privacy tool Incogni (opens in new tab).

We've also highlighted the best VPN (opens in new tab) and the best privacy apps (opens in new tab)

Via TechCrunch (opens in new tab)

Anthony Spadafora

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.