Europeans geolocated 376 times a day?

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An Irish NGO has just published the results of a large-scale study on the real-time targeted advertising market on the Internet. The results are intriguing. The study could contribute to unblocking the file of the new ePrivacy regulation.

A little riddle…

Americans do it 747 times a day on average; Europeans do it 376 times a day.

What is it about ?

No, it’s not a question of some scabrous statistic, but of the number of daily confrontations of Internet users with the phenomenon of real time bidding (RTB) or real-time bidding.

RTB, acronym for real time bidding

Real-time bidding is a type of programmatic advertising (i.e., in essence, targeted advertising based on who the ad is shown to, based on price, characteristics and interests of that person, location, etc.

The CNIL explains that “When a user consults a web page with advertising space, it is auctioned off to a set of potential buyers. The latter can consult information about the user and cross-reference it with the possible advertising profile they have on him to assess the interest in displaying an advertisement to his attention and therefore determine the price that they are possibly ready to pay. pay for it. The advertiser with the highest bid wins and can therefore display their ad to the user. This process typically takes a few hundred milliseconds. »

The technology is complex for a principle that is quite simple. A web page containing a specific ad placement is viewed by a user. The information on the user and on the advertising location is distributed to advertising agencies. Each bids on behalf of its advertisers, whoever wins sends the advertising content to be displayed. The RTB ecosystem is however quite complex, in particular due to the multiplicity of advertising networks, which is causing the emergence of new intermediaries wishing to offer complete offers to their customers.

In the real world, this means that each time a person would pass a billboard, it would change the advertisement offered depending on the person. The characteristics of this person would be sent to different advertising agencies and each could, according to an auction system, propose an advertisement. These bids would be collected by the operator of the billboard who would decide to display the advertisement of his choice, probably the one offering the highest amount.

A market worth 117 billion dollars

On the Internet, RTB is commonplace.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) is an Irish privacy NGO. It has just carried out and published the results of a survey relating to the extent of the phenomenon.

The study estimates that this market weighs more than 117 billion dollars.

Behind this market, there is a network of companies (site operators, advertising agencies, advertisers, etc.) which organize auctions 294 million million times a day in the USA, and 197 million million times a day in Europe, that is to say 747 times a day on average for an American and 376 times a day on average for a European. This difference between the two is mainly explained by the existence of the GDPR and European regulations on cookies.

In many cases, the precise geolocation of the visitor is collected.

Unsurprisingly, the most active company in this area is Google. 4,698 companies are authorized by Google to receive RTB data on people in the United States (1,058 companies in Europe).

According to the study, data is transferred worldwide, including Russia and China.

ePrivacy is long overdue

The General Regulations on the Protection of Personal Data (GDPR) regulates, horizontally (all sectors), the protection of personal data.

Another equally important text is the privacy and electronic communications (e-privacy) directive of 2002, amended in 2009. Unlike the GDPR, which is intended to be transversal, the e-privacy directive is vertical. It contains in particular provisions relating to the following elements:

  • network and service security;
  • confidentiality of communications;
  • access to stored data;
  • cookies ;
  • the processing of traffic and location data;
  • calling line identification;
  • public subscriber directories; and
  • unsolicited commercial communications (“spam”).

The entry into force of the GDPR involved updating the e-privacy directive, but this project has been delayed.

After a 2017 proposal, the file suffered from blockages and delays.

The French presidency of the European Union had made it a priority and recently summarized the work and proposed a common position.

The study published by the ICCL puts the question of cookies at the center of the political game and could contribute to unblocking the file.

More informations ?

By reading the results of the ICCL study, available in the appendix.

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