Do Europeans geolocate 376 times a day?

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An Irish non-governmental organization has just published the results of a large-scale study of the real-time targeted advertising market on the Internet. The results are intriguing. The study could help unlock the new e-privacy rule file.

Little riddle…

Americans do it an average of 747 times a day; Europeans do it 376 times a day.

What is it about ?

No, it’s not about some nasty statistics, but about the number of daily collisions of Internet users with the phenomenon real time trading (RTB) or real-time trading.

RTB, an acronym for real-time trading

Real-time bidding is a type of programmatic advertising (i.e. essentially targeted advertising based on who the ad is being shown to, price, that person’s characteristics and interests, location, etc.

CNIL explains that “when a user views a web page with ad space, it is auctioned off to a group of potential buyers. The latter can look at information about the user and match it with the possible advertising profile they have on him in order to assess the interest in showing advertising to his attention and, therefore, determine the price they may be willing to pay for it. The advertiser with the highest bid wins and can therefore show their ad to the user. This process usually takes a few hundred milliseconds. »

The technology is complex for a principle that is quite simple. The user views a web page containing a specific ad placement. User and ad placement information is distributed by ad networks. Everyone bids on behalf of their advertisers, and whoever wins submits ad content to be displayed. However, the RTB ecosystem is quite complex, in part due to the many ad networks, which leads to the emergence of new intermediaries who want to offer complete offers to their customers.

In the real world, this means that every time a person walks past a billboard, the advertisements offered will change depending on the person. The characteristics of this person will be sent to various advertising agencies, and each of them may, in accordance with the auction system, offer advertising. These bids will be collected by the billboard operator, who decides to show an ad of their choice, likely the one that offers the highest amount.

$117 billion market

On the Internet, RTB is commonplace.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) is an Irish non-governmental organization dedicated to privacy issues. It has just conducted and published a study on the magnitude of this phenomenon.

The study estimates that this market weighs over $117 billion.

Behind this market is a network of companies (website operators, advertising agencies, advertisers, etc.) that organize auctions 294 million million times a day in the US and 197 million million times a day in Europe, i.e. 747 times a day on average for an American and 376 times a day on average for a European. This difference between the two is mainly due to the presence of the GDPR and European regulations regarding cookies.

In many cases, the exact geolocation of the visitor is collected.

Not surprisingly, the most active company in this area is Google. 4698 companies are authorized by Google to receive RTB data about people in the US (1058 companies in Europe).

According to the study, data is being transferred all over the world, including Russia and China.

ePrivacy is long overdue

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) governs horizontally (all sectors) the protection of personal data.

Another equally important text is the Privacy and Electronic Communications (e-privacy) Directive of 2002, as amended in 2009. Unlike the GDPR, which is supposed to be transversal, the e-Privacy Directive is vertical. It contains, in particular, provisions concerning the following elements:

  • network and service security;
  • message privacy;
  • access to stored data;
  • biscuit ;
  • processing traffic and location data;
  • calling line identification;
  • public directories of subscribers; and
  • unsolicited commercial communications (“spam”).

The entry into force of the GDPR prompted an update to the ePrivacy Directive, but this project has been shelved.

Since the 2017 proposal, the file has suffered from locks and delays.

France, which presides over the European Union, has made this a priority and has recently summed up the work and proposed a common position.

A study published by ICCL puts the issue of cookies at the center of a political game and could help unlock the file.

More information?

By reading the results of the ICCL study available in the app.