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Online targeting needs tighter controls, UK data ethics body suggests

the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI
White Paper
Competition and Markets Authority

Roger Taylor


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Positivity     31.00%   
   Negativity   69.00%
The New York Times
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“Our analysis of public attitudes shows greatest concern and interest about the use of online targeting on large platforms.“Our research demonstrates that online targeting systems used by social media platforms (like Facebook and Twitter), video sharing platforms (like YouTube, Snapchat, and TikTok), and search engines (like Google and Bing) raise the greatest concerns in these areas.”The advisory body, which was announced by the Conservative-led government in 2017 to help devise policy for regulating the use of AI and data-driven technologies, is calling for online targeting giants to be held to higher standards of accountability over their use of targeting tools.Current regulations are inadequate to cover online targeting, per its analysis, while it dubs self-regulation and the status quo “unsustainable”.Respondents to a survey the CDEI conducted were overwhelmingly in favour (61%) of giving an independent regulator oversight of the use of online targeting systems — vs just 17% preferring self-regulation to continue.The UK government set out a plan to regulate a number of online harms in a White Paper published last year — which proposes a duty of care be placed on platforms to protect users from a range of harms, such as age inappropriate content or material that encourages damaging behaviors such as self-harm or eating disorders.The CDEI suggests this proposed framework could help plug some of the regulatory gaps its report is flagging — “if online targeting is recognised within the independent regulator’s remit” (while warning that would still leave a number of gaps in the regulation of political advertising and advertising).The report also calls for greater transparency in how online targeting systems operate — “so that society can better understand the impacts of these systems and policy responses can be built on robust evidence”.Another key recommendation is for Internet users to be given greater control over the way they are targeted so that personalization can better fit their preferences.“Online targeting has helped to put a handful of global online platform businesses in positions of enormous power to predict and influence behaviour.

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