BRUSSELS: Most marketers should be aware by now that the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force on May 25, but the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) is also warning of the potential consequences of changes to the EU’s ePrivacy directive.

Catherine Armitage is the WFA’s Senior Manager Public Affairs in charge of Digital Governance Exchange and, in an article for Marketing Week, she advises that draft changes to the ePrivacy directive could have a “significant impact on the use of cookies and other tracking technologies” used to target and deliver online ads.

Two draft texts have been published so far – one from the European Commission and another from the European Parliament – with a third currently being discussed by the national governments of the EU’s 28 member states.

According to Armitage, there are two key issues for marketers if the two published drafts go ahead unchanged.

First, online consumers would have to provide opt-in consent for cookies or other types of tracking technology – and if loads of people choose not to opt in, then “this could massively reduce the ability of programmatic advertising to reach specific audience segments”.

It could also force advertisers to rely on a smaller number of channels, such as Google and Facebook, that can continue to leverage user data via consent as part of the log-in process.

In addition, Armitage warns that the opt-in requirement could affect tracking that is used by digital platforms to provide users with a more personalised experience.

Her second major concern is that EU policymakers have proposed that all consent requests should be centralised within the privacy settings of the software being used, rather than via pop-up banners on every website.

“What this means is that the first time a piece of software is downloaded, a user would have to choose whether or not to accept tracking on all websites,” she writes.

“This means that getting consent to track online browsing habits will fall into the hands of four companies, representing 90% of the browser market: Google (Chrome), Apple (Safari), Mozilla (Firefox) and Microsoft (Edge),” she adds.

Considering some of these companies are also active players in the digital advertising industry, she suggests that this might limit the leverage advertisers have in future negotiations with the tech companies.

Finally, while the proposed changes remain in draft form, she urges marketers to let their concerns known. “It may be wise to put GDPR aside for a moment to register your concerns about ePrivacy,” Armitage says.

Sourced from Marketing Week; additional content by WARC staff