European Parliament adopted new legislation on political ads

According to the new rules, only personal data provided with explicit consent can be used for the purpose of targeting. Behaviour intelligence, a method that analyses citizens’ behaviour will be prohibited together with the use of the inferred intelligence, nicknamed “surveillance advertising”. It will no longer be possible to target political advertisements based on race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, health records or political opinions.  Shady algorithms determining who will see an ad will be replaced by a random selection of recipients from a pool according to the parameters chosen by the sponsor.

Marcel Kolaja, 
MEP who is a member of the IMCO committe adds that:

“The aim of the new rules is to prevent the manipulation with voters made easier by personalised targeting. It is absolutely unacceptable that personal data is used by politicians in their campaigns. This not only contributes to the polarisation of the society but also violates people’s privacy. I am proud to say that after today, we are one step closer to  fairer political competition. Another important element of the new framework is the disclosure of related information. The contracting authority, budget, the group targeted and other data related to the political advertising will be published and shared in a repository. Citizens, NGOs, and journalists will have all the relevant information presented in one place, leading to greater transparency.

Markéta Gregorová, 
MEP, comments:

“We have been experiencing several negative effects of this practice for several years. That is why we need more activity from the legislators, ideally at the European level. Our report should make it impossible to exploit our specific weaknesses and also increase the responsibility of political entities for the advertising they spread among people. Finally, it will make the mechanism of sanctions for violating these rules more effective.”

Patrick Breyer, 
MEP and co-negotiator in the LIBE Committee, comments:

“Today is a good day for democracy: With a broad majority, the European Parliament has rallied behind the goal of stopping political surveillance advertising online. This would protect our democracy from manipulation while not restricting unpaid political posts. From the Donald Trump and Brexit campaigns we have learned that you can very effectively and subconsciously manipulate a voter if you know which message works on them. The mandate to ban political surveillance advertising is a victory for us Pirates.On the other hand, an unholy alliance of EU Commission, EU governments and big tech companies wants to allow the digital manipulation of elections and referendums to continue unabated. Anti-democratic and anti-European forces could continue to use surveillance advertising to target hate messages and lies at those voters who are receptive to them, and thus attack our democracy. We are witnessing a toxic mixture of the short-sighted self-interest of the powerful in using surveillance advertising themselves and the business interests of big tech. We will fight to ensure that they do not succeed. We will fight to protect our private lives and our democracy.”

In order to assure compliance with the new legislation, the European Data Protection Board will be able to intervene if a relevant national authority will not sufficiently enforce the rules. Firstly, illegal political ads targeting can be punished with financial sanctions. Secondly, targeting can be temporarily suspended for the advertisers who seriously and systematically violate the rules.

Now that the European Parliament has adopted the position towards the legislation it will enter into negotiations with Council.

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