Various authorities, both at a European and a national level, are currently addressing the issue of online behavioral advertising. On March 31, 2009, Meglena Kuneva, the European Commissioner for Consumer Affairs, gave a keynote address in Brussels in which she raised the issue of online behavioral advertising and addressed the need to enhance consumer protection related to the practice. While recognizing the numerous beneficial applications for consumers made possible by the Internet, Kuneva expressed her concern that the World Wide Web could become the “world wide west” and called for a better balance between the interests of businesses and consumers. The full text of Ms. Kuneva’s address is available here.
This issue has also attracted attention at the national level and is currently being addressed in some Member States. On March 26, 2009, the French Data Protection Authority (CNIL) issued a report on online behavioral advertising stating that current business models are, in many aspects, a threat to privacy and do not comply with the French Data Protection Act. The CNIL called for more transparency, clear and user-friendly privacy notices, and more wide-spread collection of explicit consumer consent to behavioral advertising. The CNIL also encouraged businesses to adopt a code of conduct and to develop more effective tools that would allow Internet users to have control over information about them. The full report is available (in French) here.
Finally, the French Senate recently completed a study on online tracking and tracing devices and their impact on people’s privacy. The Senate organized a hearing with various stakeholders in which it addressed the question of existing and future tracking technologies and how these technologies can be better addressed in the context of the French Data Protection Act. The Senate is expected to issue a public report in the near future, which may contain legislative proposals to amend the French Data Protection Act.