[AfrICANN-discuss] Regulator warns of mobile Internet privacy concerns

Anne-Rachel Inné annerachel at gmail.com
Thu May 29 14:04:24 SAST 2008

 Regulator warns of mobile Internet privacy concerns[fr][de]
Published: Thursday 29 May 2008

Searching on the Internet via a mobile phone poses higher privacy-related
concerns than traditional computer-based queries, according to the Italian
authority for the protection of personal data.

Mobile Internet is considered the future of the Web. Yahoo! predicts that in
less than ten years, the majority of Internet users are expected to access
the net via their mobile handsets (see EurActiv 15/05/08).

Privacy concerns related to the Internet mainly arise from social networking
websites and search advertising. The latter is based on user profiles
assembled by search engine operators by putting together personal
information such as query histories, geographical locations and IP

The effectiveness of targeting specific consumers makes search advertising
more valuable than traditional display ads based on banners aimed at
non-specific users.

Using a search engine on a mobile handset makes available a larger amount of
personal data, allowing for easier identification and location of a user.
Specifically, by matching the information collected by search engines and
the particular data collected by Telecom networks, "it is possible to have a
very accurate profile of a user, namely in terms of localisation," warned
Giovanni Buttarelli, secretary general of the Italian Data Protection
Authority, after a meetingexternal in the EU Parliament on privacy and the
Internet yesterday (28 May).

He expressed his "concern" over potential new scenarios foreseeable due to
mobile Internet and reminded search engine operators that they have to abide
by the principles set in an opinionPdf external issued by EU Privacy
regulators last April. The text invites search engines to ask users'
permission to collect private data to be used to offer personalised
advertisements on the Internet (see EurActiv 09/04/08).

The EU's increasingly cautious stance on Internet privacy may have
significant consequences for the thriving targeted ads market, developed by
search engines by compiling detailed knowledge of their users.

Search (or targeted) ads represent around 45% of the online advertising
market in the EU and 40% in the US, comparing to around 30% in both areas
for display ads and lower percentages for email advertising. The entire
market for online advertising already has an estimated value of around 25
billion euros worldwide, an impressive figure considering that the first
Internet banner only appeared in 1994, according to figures from the
Milan-based Bicocca University.

Google is the dominant player by far, controlling the largest market share
both for search and display ads. The recent acquisition of DoubleClick
further strengthened its position in the online advertising market, yet was
considered to comply with competition rules by both EU and US regulators
(see EurActiv 12/03/08).

European citizens are also becoming more concerned about the use of personal
information on the Internet. 82% of European Internet users have little
trust in personal data management over the Web, according to a recent
Eurobarometer pollPdf external (see EurActiv 18/04/08).

Another poll issued yesterday indicates that in Italy, France, Germany and
the UK, 83% of the people interviewed consider it inappropriate for a
company to collect a wide variety of detailed personal information on a
user. Another 93% said that this information should not in any case be used
for targeted ads.

The poll was carried out from a sample of 150 citizens per country in spring
2008 by ICOMP (Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace), an advocacy
forum sponsored by Microsoft.

Giovanni Buttarelli, secretary general of the Italian Data Protection
Authority, said: "We have increased concerns on data retention on Internet
searches through mobile phones."

Not excluding new EU regulation on online advertising, the EPP-ED MEP Gunnar
Hokmarkexternal (Sweden) said: "We see an increased technology convergence.
And this concerns also advertisement. We could have different rules for ads
on radio, on TV and so on. I wonder if we should look at it in a more
general way."

Commenting on the consolidation trend in online advertising, Marco Pierani,
public affairs chief at Altroconsumo, an Italian consumer organisation and
member of the EU association BEUC, said: "We are at the moment in a period
of transition. We have to be sure that competition is still there. We
believe that more competition leads to better privacy protection."
European Union

   * EU Privacy Regulators (Article 29 Working Party): Opinion on privacy
and search enginesPdf external (4 April 2008)
   * European Commission/Gallup: Eurobarometer on data protection in the
European UnionPdf external (February 2008)
   * EU: Data Protection Directiveexternal (24 October 1995) [FR]external

Business & Industry

   * Google: Reaction to EU privacy concernsexternal (7 April 2008)
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