Civil rights groups call on EU to ban tracking in online advertising

30 civil rights groups across Europe, including Amnesty International and Privacy International, have called on the EU to ban ‘unlawful tracking and surveillance’ in online advertising.

In a letter addressed to the European Parliament, the organisations urged members to ensure a high level of protection of privacy and confidentiality in its upcoming ePrivacy regulation.

The Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties), which is one of the 30 signatories, said that the eagerly awaited EU reform, which was meant to put a stop to unconsented tracking online, has now come under threat after ‘the position of member states has come to light.’

Liberties warned that improvements sought by the EU Parliament are at risk of being watered down and could make the reform ‘toothless.’

The group said that while the EU’s GDPR was a major transformation for the online world, it is ‘incomplete and insufficiently enforced.’

The ePrivacy Regulation was supposed to build on the existing regulation by stopping commercial surveillance.

In the letter the civil rights groups said that while the European Parliament had adopted several provisions to address the use of cookies and other tracking technologies as part of the proposal for the new regulation, these protections had either been removed or weakened by the council in its negotiation mandate.

“This is a terrific opportunity to install privacy by default in the online world,” said Eva Simon, senior advocacy officer at the Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties.) “Big tech makes big bucks collecting as much data as it can on people when they are online."

Simon added: “Yet people are increasingly concerned about how much personal data gets hoovered up when they are online and what happens with it. We have the opportunity to create an internet that better serves users by stopping built in data harvesting and tracing methods. It’s important that the European Parliament realises it can stand up for people, and not defend the interests of the big tech platforms.”

Negotiations between the EU institutions are expected to start in May.

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