The European Commission today announced new rules on targeted political advertising, limiting the way in which personal data of Internet users can be used.
Organizations that use targeting and reinforcement techniques should explain them clearly and in detail, and they would be prohibited from using sensitive personal information without the express consent of the individual.
Meanwhile, political ads should be clearly marked as such and include information such as who paid for them and how much.
“Elections must not be a competition of opaque and non-transparent methods. People need to know why they see the ad, who paid for it, how much, what micro-targeting criteria were used,” says Vice President for Values and Transparency, Vera Jourová.
“New technologies should be a tool for emancipation, not manipulation. This ambitious proposal will bring an unprecedented level of transparency to the political campaign and limit opaque targeting techniques.”
The rules will apply not only to direct political advertisements, but also to so-called advertisements based on problems that could affect the outcome of an election or referendum, the legislative or regulatory process, or voting behavior.
Paid political advertising must be clearly marked and include the name of the sponsor – prominent – and a transparency notice that is easy to find with the amount spent on the ad, the sources of funds used, and the link between the ad and the relevant election or referendum.
In the meantime, the use of micro-targeting using sensitive personal data, such as ethnic origin, religious beliefs or sexual orientation, will be prohibited unless the user gives explicit consent.
And, for the first time, it will be mandatory to include in the ads a description based on what the person is targeted and which groups of individuals are targeted, the criteria used and the tools or methods used to reinforce.
Organizations pursuing policy targeting and reinforcement will need to create and publicly disclose internal policies on the use of such techniques.
The center-right EPP group, the largest and oldest group in the European Parliament, says it welcomes the new rules.
“Russia, China and other authoritarian regimes have spent more than $ 300 million in 33 countries to interfere in democratic processes. This trend is becoming increasingly dangerous. Half of these cases relate to Russia’s hostile actions in Europe,” it said.
“These cases include a referendum on Brexit in the UK, presidential elections in France and the US, practical support for far-right and other radical actors across Europe, including France, Austria, Germany and Italy. Europe cannot and must not allow this anymore. ”
The proposals now need to be adopted by the European Parliament and ratified by individual member states, but are expected to take effect before the 2024 EU elections.