Online Tracking Ads May Get Overhaul

John Lister's picture

Major changes to privacy laws in Europe could affect the way websites deliver advertising. The move is meant to protect user privacy, but critics claim it could make ads more annoying and intrusive.

The proposed changes would affect websites used by people in European Union countries, but the regulatory impact could be so severe that sites find it easier to change their policies worldwide. According to European officials, the changes are designed to take existing rules that affect telecommunications companies and apply them equally to Internet companies.

The main principle of the change is that companies will have to get explicit consent from customers before tracking their online activity and using it for advertising purposes, such as the way Google computers scan Gmail messages to produce targeted ads to show on inbox pages. While that issue is usually covered by terms and conditions, the new rules would mean companies had to explicitly ask the customer about the specific issue of targeted ads.

Cookies Could Be Blocked Altogether

Another big change would be to cookies, the small text files that companies can store on a user's computer to help tailor both web pages and advertising to their interests and online activities. European rules already mean companies are supposed to inform customers about their use of cookies and to get their agreement, which many sites do with a notice saying that continuing to use the site shall be taken as granting consent.

Under the proposals, whenever a user installed a web browser, they'd be asked if they want to allow cookies for targeted ads at all. If they said no, then the browser would simply block all such cookies.

Firms Warn Of More Intrusive Ads

Opponents of the proposal argue that this could mean sites simply deliver generic advertising that's less likely to be relevant to individual users, something which could be a more annoying experience. The head of an organization representing European advertising firms also warned that sites might resort to showing pop-up messages urging users to switch their browser settings so they allow cookies. (Source:

The proposals will need to be approved by both European parliament members and the relevant government members of European countries before they can become law. Officials say they hope the new rules can come in to force in 2018. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Would you like to see such rules take effect in your country? Should sites be clearer when asking for permission to use targeted advertising? Is it a step too far to encourage users to simply block all cookies?

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Dennis Faas's picture

Not long ago Google came up with an idea to automatically generate advertisements next to page content. That was how they coined the term "Adsense" - the ads actually "made sense" because they matched the content (rather than something completely random).

Unfortunately, people started abusing this concept and started making content geared toward targeting adsense advertisements. For example, it was especially lucrative to write about credit cards, casinos, loans, and mortgages because that content attracted ads that paid a ton of money - because there was a lot of competition. The revenue from the clicks of these ads were then shared with the website owner (with the majority of it going to Google). This made Google a TON of money.

Fast forward about 10 years, and Google has done what it can to prevent spammy content like the kind I just mentioned. We now have ads based on the pages people were previously viewing (and searching for), so that Google and companies can re-advertise the product. This is called "remarketing" technology and was first developed by Double Click (as far as I recall) and now is used by Google almost exclusively.

Google and other companies are making - literally - fists full of cash every second and I don't expect that to change any time soon, and they will do everything they can to keep it that way. With respect to this article: there may be a period of adapting to this change - not having cookies and thus breaking the ability to track what users are doing, and remarketing that material - but, I'll bet they will figure out yet another way to game the system (without browser cookies) and turn the tracking back on.

ecash's picture

Been at this along time and its changed, ALITTLE..

Iv suggested to many site owners to 'Make the ad's PARt of their site' NOT 3rd party, and I would read them, watch them.
They could STRIP the data and just apply a direct link..OR they could create Adverts FOR THE company themselves..which is cheaper then going threw a Giant Advert agency..Just charge them per month RATHER then per click..

The problem with ADSENCE, is that Every place I goto, that Reads Adsence, Thinks I want the same thing. I BUY 1 part for the lawn mower and I get adverts for 2 months FOR THE SAME product.
The system does not work very well.

I did a reinstall long ago, on a computer, and setup dialup to call out..the first site it went to was took 15 minutes to gain control of the computer, I KNEW what was happening.. 8 virus, 15 bots later, and a FULL reinstall, I sent MSN a note about SCANNING THE 3RD PARTY ADVERTS...1 year later they DUMPED 3rd party adverts.

Iv asked Firefox and Chrome for a Addon, that would SAVE a Comment to the files sent to me. WHERE I got the DATA. If you caould track back to the site that infected you, with PROOF...I would think the SITE owners would be VERY careful..

To understand Virus and bots, from 3rd party adverts... the Advertising agency Farms out the work. Generally the first one in gets the job. But the person creating it, INSERTED the garbage. They also HAD to insert data to be PAID for sending you around the net. That signature IS TRACEABLE..

matt_2058's picture

I'd have no problem with something like this in the US. I don't click ads. If I am on the infopackets site to read an article, I read it and go. I don't go to home depot site and click on yard equipment ads....I search the HD site for what I'm interested in. I only click things that keep me on the same site unless it's a search engine. Too many bad things happen when a link takes you off-site. And you rally don't know if it's bad until you get there.

ecash's picture

My #1 rule I give all customers about the net...NEVER/EVER push a button.
If there is a popup, or something that is Strange, or you dont know what it is...
DONT push any button..CLOSE the browser..OR TURN OFF the computer..
They ALL have gone thru a FULL install, and loosing DATA, pics, and music..and game saves and TRYING to remember PASSWORDS..

ecash's picture

Having a NEW system and getting protection ON IT. is not always easy.
YOU HAVE to connect to the net, or have a person with the protection LOADED on a CD/DVD/FLASH..

Even BASIC copies of NEW versions of Virus and BOT protection work better them MOST other software..
There are FEW sites I will Direct Download from. and they are Safe and secure..DO NOT believe those EMBLEMS...its like a Letter of Authenticity..ANYONE can have/make them..CLICK most of them and you find they are only Pictures, NOT LINKS to the sites they represent.

Someone mentioned a strange fact...and its hard for me to evaluate it..
In the OLD days it was the WORSE thing you could do, but now...PORN sites can be safer then SOME internet sites..THEY WANT customers, they DONT WANT to piss you off...They want your money, and if you are being VIRUS'd of BOTTED, or SCARED to go there...they WONT make money.