December 5, 2023

Is tracking me the only way to advertise relevant content?

As an active DPO with a number of clients it can be hard to stay on top of the various subjects that are under the „data governance/ data protection“ umbrella, so at IAPP’s last congress in Brussels, I took part in the workshops with a goal to get a better understanding of various topics. One workshop was „Online advertising and privacy“. IAB Europe, Google, the NAI and Privacy TripleLift on the panel.

A lot of the time was spent explaining around „tracking transparency“ and how to organise consent reasonably, because yes, the ePrivacy Directive is still in force with ePrivacy Regulation nowhere to be seen, so saving cookies in your device still needs your consent.

Not being a marketer or web engineer, I asked the panel „why is digital marketing tracking based and why not just ask my preferences? Anyone who’s travelled in Europe with a device that they connect to a WiFi at their travel location that digital giants’ idea of „personalising“ based on tracking is to start showing you content in the language of your travel location. Greek is literally Greek to me and instead of making my life easier, annoys me to no end.“ The answer I got from the representative was that „setting the service around individual preferences is too great of an engineering challenge“.

I thought about it for some time and my translation to that answer is: „Google’s service is not to perform searches for the user easier, to make searches easier and more specified to them and more fitting with their actual preferences, it is built to make it easier to derive value from the user for the advertiser.“ Of course, as the saying goes „if the service is free you are the goods“, but still instead of a „big brother“ like tracking how about I can set some of the preferences – the language, the continent, my interests. Or perhaps we are only clever enough how to make money faster?

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