While most marketers’ attention is on the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which takes effect this May, there’s also another regulation that should be of concern to the industry – ePrivacy.

According to advertising marketplace Teads, ePrivacy aims to protect data collected from users’ browsing histories where presently people provide consent to each website they visit to install cookies. The protocol, which also comes in on May 25, could spark an end to cookie-based advertising for marketers who rely on such methods to collect measurable data.

Ahead of the protocol, Teads executive chairman, Pierre Chappaz talked to PerformanceIN around the topic of ePrivacy and its potential impact on the digital advertising industry.

Could you tell us a little bit about the forthcoming ePrivacy regulation and what it means for marketers going forward?

Pierre Chappaz: There is a lot of controversy surrounding the European Union’s (EU) planned ‘ePrivacy’ regulatory package, which the European Parliament voted on in October [2017] and is now being discussed between the EU and governments. With this proposed regulation, the European Parliament aims to protect the data related to internet users’ browsing histories.

Currently, people give their consent to every website they visit to install cookies – those small bits of code specialised in saving browsing data. The vast majority of users give their agreement. The new regulation however would require internet users to authorise cookies only once, when they first connect to their browser. It’s a lot simpler, but the default choice would be to refuse… It’s likely that few people would make the opposite choice, lacking any good reason to do so. ePrivacy, if its current version is approved by the European Parliament, would lead to the near disappearance of cookies in the EU.

This regulation would involve two things – an unprecedented and decisive advantage in terms of personal data collection for the celebrated GAFA – Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple – and perhaps, a fatal blow to diversity of information. Indeed, blocking the media’s cookies, and therefore its ability to deliver targeted advertising, would badly hurt its business model.

How does ePrivacy differ to GDPR which is also coming into force this May?

PC: GDPR is a set of regulations, coming into effect in May, that monitor and manage the collection of personal data and control how this data is used. It mainly reinforces existing protections, including those related to cookies, imposing detailed information about data usage. On the contrary, ePrivacy, as we have seen, would ask users to given their consent on cookies globally, without any knowledge of how the data is used… it sounds rather contradictory.

With the regulation coming into effect, do you think this will diminish usage of cookie-based advertising for good?

PC: ePrivacy risks killing an entire segment of the advertising industry that bases its business model on cookies for targeting, capping, and analytics. Online advertising would be sent back to the past, ads would be pushed in the dark, they would take a step back instead of a step forward, becoming less relevant, and more intrusive.

The main beneficiaries would be Facebook and, to a lesser extent, Google, who have a massive base of registered users, and do not rely on cookies to operate their ads. And on top of that, they would control all cookie acceptance data collected by their browsers!

How will this regulation impact digital advertising as a whole?

PC: The media’s business model relies to a great extent on targeted advertising, operated by specialised adtech companies such as Teads.  By doing away with cookies, you are inevitably reducing the online advertising market to the players that collect data without relying on cookies.  GAFA would be the true beneficiaries of ePrivacy. To use services such as Facebook, Apple, Gmail or Amazon, you must sign up, provide your details, and then accept the terms and conditions – which include authorising the collection and mining of personal data.  Google, Facebook and Amazon would therefore be Europe’s only online players able to massively collect personal data and mine it for advertising purposes.

The removal of cookie-based advertising would literally destroy the independent programmatic market. Ultimately the entire business model of the media is at serious risk. In the age of fake news, the existence of independent, influential, reliable and economically-viable media should be a priority for the EU. The ePrivacy project goes exactly in the opposite direction. It would reserve access to diverse and professional information to paying subscribers, leaving the open internet under the complete domination of the US-based giants. Let us hope that the governments understand the issue and amend the project.

Alternatively, what options/tools are available for publishers with individual websites to target ads and collect personal data more effectively online?

PC: The only remaining option on the web would be to force their users to register.

How can marketers best prepare for the ePrivacy regulation?

PC: Brands and marketers should join the massive ongoing protest of European publishers and adtech companies, highlighting that they must absolutely be able to reach their audiences in a meaningful way. If advertisers are prevented from being able to target their campaigns on the internet in Europe, it would also be a disaster for them.