IAB Europe Launches New Push Against EU Privacy Proposal

The Interactive Advertising Bureau Europe has launched a new initiative opposing the EU's proposed privacy rules, which would require companies to obtain consumers' consent before collecting a host of data.

The proposed ePrivacy Regulation could take effect as early as next May. If adopted by EU lawmakers, the new regulation would require companies to obtain explicit consent from consumers before collecting their personal data -- including tracking cookies, MAC addresses and other data that identifies particular devices. The proposed rules also would prohibit companies from requiring consumers to accept tracking cookies in order to access content.

The IAB Europe*, which late last week unveiled a new website opposing the proposed regulation, argues that they could cause "up to half of the digital advertising market" to disappear.

"The latest research and econometric analysis shows that, without the use of data in advertising, the role of the internet would be fundamentally diminished within Europe," the IAB Europe says on its new site.

The group argues that attempts to curb digital advertising would harm online publishers, apparently on the theory that publishers won't be able to replace lost ad revenue by charging consumers for content. The IAB specifically says that a recent survey it commissioned from GfK shows that 88% of Europeans say they would use the web "far less" if they had to pay.

"Only 1% of online users say they would pay and not change their online activity if all of the sites and apps they visit required payment," the IAB Europe writes.

The organization also contends that digital advertising contributes 526 billion Euros (equivalent to $629 billion) to the EU's economy. That figure includes what the IAB Europe terms "ripple effects" from a much smaller amount spent on online ads -- 41.8 billion Euros ($50 billion) in 2016.

Not everyone agrees with the IAB Europe's assessment that digital ads contribute $629 billion to the economy. "It's classic make the number as big as you can make it, and scare the bejesus out of people," says Jason Kint, CEO of the online publishers group Digital Content Next.

That organization argues that the ePrivacy Regulation "should require transparency and consumer consent in cases where consumer data will be collected and used across multiple contexts."

Kint also points out that not all forms of digital advertising would be affected by the proposed ePrivacy rules. He adds that there are ways to target ads other than by tracking users' behavior across the web. For instance, publishers can target ads contextually -- meaning based on the editorial content on pages -- or based on the information collected directly from subscribers.

*This article has been updated to clarify that the IAB Europe launched the new push against the proposed rules.

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