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DMA delay causes anger as European user data is shared 376 times per day

It was widely reported that the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), designed to reign in Big Tech in Europe, has been delayed and will now come into force in early 2023 – for many, way too late, and they may have a point.

European user data is shared 376 times per day

A new reports states that data about every internet user is shared hundreds of times each day as companies bid for online advertising slots.

The study, by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), found that the average European user’s data is shared 376 times per day. The figure rises to 747 times daily for US-based users, the report claims.

The response from Tech companies is typically the same – revenue from digital adverts is what keeps most internet services free to use.

The ICCL is currently engaged in legal action with the digital ad industry and the Data Protection Commission against what it describes as an epic data breach, arguing that nobody has ever specifically consented to this practice.

The data is shared between brokers acting on behalf of those wishing to place adverts, in real time, as a web page loads in front of someone who is reading it. The brands in the adverts themselves are not involved.

It includes information about the device the page is loading on, some details about where that device is, and other information such as previous websites visited and their subject matter.

It is used to secure the most relevant bidder for the advert space on the page.

This all happens automatically, in a fraction of a second, and is a multi-million dollar industry.

Personally-identifying information is not included, but campaigners argue that the volume of the data is still a violation of privacy.

The report claims that:

  • data about US web users’ habits are shared in advert sales processes 107 trillion times per year. European users’ data is shared 71 billion times
  • Germany’s individual internet users’ data is shared once every minute that they are online, using a calculation based on averages

The Digital Markets Act

The DMA, agreed on by EU law makers earlier this spring, will govern the activities of online ‘gatekeepers’, regulate how businesses access gatekeeper platforms, provide internet users with new rights to uninstall pre-loaded apps, and place fresh restrictions on the use of users’ personal data. Gatekeepers are businesses operating platforms that are considered to be a gateway for smaller businesses to reach the end consumer.

The DMA was originally proposed by the European Commission in late 2020. The Commission’s draft was subsequently scrutinised and amended by the European Parliament and Council of Ministers, the two EU law-making bodies, but despite agreeing on the wording of the text in March, those bodies have yet to formally adopt the DMA.

In a recent speech, EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said the DMA “will enter into force next spring”. That phrasing appears to have caused some confusion as to whether the DMA is being delayed.

According to the Commission’s original draft, a 2022 start period for implementation was envisaged. However, the confusion appears to stem from the difference between the date on which the DMA will formally come into force and when many of its provisions will take effect.


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