[kictanet] Regulator warns of mobile Internet privacy concerns]

alice alice at apc.org
Thu May 29 16:45:29 EAT 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 addresses.

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 
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 [DE]external

Business & Industry

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

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