The past week has seen a couple of interesting developments in relation to adtech investigations in both the UK and the EU. 

ICO adtech investigation

  • The ICO has released its annual report for 2020/21, which provides an update on its ongoing adtech investigation. The ICO is currently concentrating its efforts on data management platforms and data brokers: it has already issued several assessment notices, and plans to issue some more in the coming months. The focus on intermediaries will come as a relief to advertisers and publishers, especially those hit in recent weeks by complaints about cookie compliance from noyb.

 European Commission study on the impact of recent developments in adtech

  • The European Commission has published a call for tenderon the impact of recent developments in adtech and their impact on privacy, publishers and advertisers. The call for tender outlines several issues with online advertising and adtech, including:
    • significant downsides for advertisers and publishers as a result of the involvement of intermediaries;
    • privacy and personal data concerns (including profiling of children); and
    • societal factors (such as impact on political campaigning, journalism and the environment).
  • The aim of the study is to provide the Commission with evidence that could inform future policy options for promoting and supporting a more transparent and balanced online advertising ecosystem, which complements related parts of the current or future regulatory framework, including the proposed Digital Services Act package.
  • This is an interesting development for a couple of (related) reasons:
    • It shows that adtech is firmly in the Commission's crosshairs, independent of any particular area of law, such as antitrust or data protection. 
    • It suggests that adtech itself could be subject to additional regulation in the EU in the future. In particular, the call for tender notes that while "[e]nforcement of existing legal frameworks, such as the GDPR, and frameworks under negotiation such as the ePrivacy regulation, the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act, should ameliorate the situation to some degree…none of these instruments aims to address the more systemic concerns with adtech".