PageFair’s long letter to the Article 29 Working Party

This note discusses a letter that PageFair submitted to the Article 29 Working Party. The answers may shape the future of the adtech industry. 

Eventually the data protection authorities of Europe will gain a thorough understanding of the adtech industry, and enforce data protection upon it. This will change how the industry works. Until then, we are in a period of uncertainty. Industry can not move forward, business can not flourish. Limbo does not serve the interests of publishers. Therefore we press for certainty.

This week PageFair wrote a letter to the Article 29 Working Party presenting insight on the inner workings of adtech, warts and all.

Our letter asked the working party to consider five questions. We suspect that the answers may shape the future of the adtech industry.

  1. We asked for further guidance about two issues that determine the granularity of consent required. First, we asked what the scope of a single “purpose” for processing personal data is. Since one must have a legal basis for each purpose, a clear understanding of scope of an individual purpose is important to determine the number of purposes, and thus the number of granular opt-ins required.
  2. The second question about granularity of consent asked whether multiple controllers that pursue identical purposes should be unbundled from each other. In other words, should consent be requested not only per purpose, but per controller too. This is important because it should not be assumed that a person trusts all data controllers equally. Nor is it likely that all controllers apply equal safeguards of personal data. Therefore, we asked whether it was appropriate to bundle multiple controllers together in a single consent request without the opportunity to accept some, and not all.
  3. We asked for guidance on how explicit consent operates for websites and apps, where a controller wishes to process special categories of personal data. Previously the Working Party cited the double opt-in as method of explicit consent for e-mail marketing. We presented wireframes of how this might operate on web and mobile.
  4. We asked for clarification that all unique identifiers are personal data. This is important because the presence of a unique ID enables the combining of data about the person associated with that unique ID, even if the party that originally assigned the unique ID did so randomly, without any understanding of who the data subject is.
  5. We asked for guidance on how Article 13 of the GDPR applies to non-tracking cookies (without personal data) as opposed to personal data. This is important because some paragraphs of this article were intended to apply to personal data and are not appropriate for non-personal data.

In addition to these questions we made three statements.

  1. Websites, apps, and adtech vendors leak personal data to unknown parties in routine advertising operation (via “RTB” bid requests, cookie syncs, JavaScript ad units, mobile SDKs, and other 3rd party integrations). This is preventable.
  2. We noted our support for the Working Party’s view that the GDPR forbids the demanding of consent for 3rd party tracking that is unrelated to the provision of an online service.
  3. It is untenable for any publisher, adtech vendor, or trade body, to claim that they must use personal data for online advertising. As we and others have shown, sophisticated adtech can work without personal data.

The full letter is available here.

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