UK's CMA launches study into digital ad harms

July 4, 2019 | 11:05

Tags: #advertising #digital-advertising #law #legal #regulation #social-networking

Companies: #cma #competition-and-markets-authority #uk-government

The UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched a study into the digital advertising market, investigating concerns regarding privacy and monopolistic practices.

The digital advertising market is a battleground: Increasingly obnoxious and invasive advertising techniques has led to an explosion of popularity for ad-blocking technology, which in turn has caused many sites who rely upon revenue from advertising to implement ad-blocker-blocking technology, which only resulted in the development of ad-blocker-blocker-blocking add-ons for popular browsers. Some providers of ad-blocking services have tried to work with the industry, as with Adblock Plus' divisive 'Acceptable Ads' whitelist and self-hosted advertising offerings, while browsers including Firefox and Chrome have begun enabling technologies to block the most aggressive forms of advertising automatically.

In amongst all this is the concern - far greater than the displeasure in seeing an animated monkey exhorting you to hit it in order to win a car - that users privacy is being invaded if they do not actively block advertising and, as a result, starve sites of revenue. Modern advertising platforms don't simply track users who visit a particular site; they track users across as many sites as possible, building up detailed profiles which can be used to better target the adverts that are then displayed. It's an approach which has made Google and Facebook two of the biggest companies in the world, generating the overwhelming majority of their profits from either providing advertising directly or allowing advertisers to exploit these extensive profiles of both users and non-users alike.

The UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has suggested that such practices may need additional regulation, however, with the launch of a study into online platforms and digital advertising. 'We are assessing three broad potential sources of harm to consumers,' the organisation explains, 'in connection with the market for digital advertising: To what extent online platforms have market power in user-facing markets, and what impact this has on consumers; whether consumers are able and willing to control how data about them is used and collected by online platforms; whether competition in the digital advertising market may be distorted by any market power held by platforms.'

While the study doesn't necessarily mean that regulation will be forthcoming, interested parties can find out how to reply on the GOV.UK website.

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