Nikolas Moschakis, EPC Policy Advisor, participated on 26th January at a panel duscussion on the reform of the e-Privacy Directive, organised in the framework of the 10th International Conference on Computers, Privacy and Data Protection.
Nikolas addressed the points below.
“Thank you for having me on the panel.
Before I start I would like to give you the apologies of Angela Mills Wade, EPC’s executive director, who unfortunately could not be with us today for family reasons.
We all know that staying in touch with the news is as important as ever for millions of European citizens.
This digital revolution we evolve in has spawned an infinite amount of information, opinion, and sources of news, but also misinformation and rumours. Professional editing of quality journalism is needed more than ever to separate the authentic from the fake, and to have the authority, derived from editorial responsibility, to hold politicians, and others in society to account.
But breaking news or in-depth investigative reports, sports coverage or feature writing is not just popular to read and share across social media, but expensive and often risky to produce. You may be able to find it anywhere, anytime on any device of your choosing but it didn’t just fall from the sky… It requires sustainable revenue sources.
Advertising revenues are an absolutely indispensable source of funding for an independently financed press. For many online publications, it is often the only revenue stream.
To remain competitive and independently financed, publishers need to be able to compete effectively and profitably in an ever more complex advertising eco-system.
Today, data lie at the heart of the online advertising ecosystem and there is no turning back to analogue ways.
That’s not to say that publishers do not care about how their readers feel about data-driven advertising. They care very much because readers are at the heart of everything they do. Maintaining their readers trust and loyalty is essential to a publishers’ future viability.
When it comes to ePrivacy Regulation, I would like to highlight 5 points:
- Our goal is not a box ticking legal compliance exercise, but improved transparency, consumer choice and functional meaningful consumer privacy, enabling long term consumer trust. This is why the EPC was leading the steering group to put in place a pan-European self-regulatory programme to provide consumers with informed consent, and easy to understand and to use tools if they choose to opt-out from receiving Online Behavioural Advertising. This is why we are deeply concerned about the future viability of our self-regulatory programme for OBA under any regime that imposes browser privacy settings, and where gaining consent from users is likely to become more complicated for the users and more onerous for online player than today. We believe our programme is more meaningful than global opt-in consent when part of Ts and Cs which we all know consumers do not bother to read.
- The ePR does not have the flexible approach of the GDPR to data processing, such as the risk-based approach, making this proposal a very rigid piece of legislation, on top of the already demanding, and not yet properly interpreted, GDPR.
- Unlike the GDPR, the ePrivacy proposal does not consider the concept of pseudonymous data, a win-win method for advertising to continue funding free content and users getting relevant advertising, while having their privacy respected.
- The ePrivacy proposal focus on consent will unfortunately mainly benefit to large online platforms, at the expense of smaller scale European companies. The ‘nirvana’ of data-driven advertising is when users are logged-in, which allows for highly relevant, targeted advertising. These large platform provide both consumer facing services and ad network services to publisher. Through the Ts and Cs of their consumer facing services, those companies will obtain global consent in an easy manner, for tracking across all of their activities including through their browsers. This will, most likely give them unparalleled competitive advantage in the ecosystem. The log-in giants alone can offer everything as first parties, thereby gaining yet further advantages compared to operators that depend on third parties, including press publishers – especially the SME publishers
- Publishers need advertising revenues to survive, regardless of whether or not they manage to sell subscriptions. The majority of publishers choose to make their content available free to readers in order to provide the widest possible access to society of journalistically driven content, financed by advertising and without requiring registration. Our research suggests that log-in system on publisher websites is off-putting for consumer, thus not so widely used. Publishers will be massively disadvantaged in gaining consent by comparison to the platforms, especially smaller publishers, which make up the majority of publishers in the EU. Publishers do not want to choose between a paywall and a consent wall.
To conclude, publishers are looking into the opportunities and challenges that this new legislative framework will bring. It is clear though that data-driven advertising is effective, provides consumers with relevant advertising and publishers with the much needed revenues to survive, while maintaining a level playing field with the big platforms.
Those of us lucky enough to enjoy life under a democracy often take press freedom for granted yet it is that press freedom, and the provision of 24/7 news, entertainment, sports, political enquiry and investigative journalism that underpins our democracy. A free press needs independent and adequate funding. Therefore, legislators should aim for balanced solutions, taking into consideration other alternative to the hardline consent option, thus taking market and life realities into account.”