ePrivacy: a fatal blow to the diversity of information in Europe?
“There’s what you see and what you don’t.” This line by French economist Frédéric Bastiat perfectly illustrates the controversy surrounding the EU’s planned “ePrivacy” regulatory package. Expected to come into force in May 2018, the draft is currently being discussed by the European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament.
“What you see” are the project’s perfectly respectable intentions. It aims to protect the data related to internet users’ browsing histories. Currently, people give their consent for each website they visit to install cookies – those small bits of code specialized in saving browsing data. The new regulation would require internet users to authorize cookies only once when they first connect to their browser. It’s a lot simpler. As the default choice is to refuse, it is likely that few people will make the opposite choice. ePrivacy, if its current version is approved, would lead to the near disappearance of cookies in the EU.
“What you don’t see” is this change’s impact on the Internet economy and the diversity of information. Indeed, this directive’s implementation would involve:
1. An unprecedented and decisive advantage in terms of personal data collection for the celebrated GAFA – Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple.
2. A – perhaps fatal – blow to the diversity of information. Indeed, blocking the media’s cookies (and therefore its ability to deliver targeted advertising) would destroy its business model.
GAFA, the true beneficiaries of ePrivacy
To use services such as Facebook, Android, Gmail or Amazon, you must sign up, provide your details, then accept the rules and conditions – which include authorizing the collection and mining of personal data. These services don’t need cookies, so they’re not affected by ePrivacy.
Google, Facebook and Amazon would, therefore, be Europe’s only online players able to massively collect personal data and mine it for advertising purposes.
Is this the intention of our European rulers?
A fatal blow to Europe’s media, delivered by Europe itself.
The media’s business model relies to a great extent on targeted advertising, displayed by specialized agencies such as the one I run. By doing away with cookies, you are inevitably reducing the online advertising market to the players that collect data without relying on cookies. The economics and financing 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 diversified and professional information to paying subscribers, leaving the open Internet under the complete domination of the GAFA.
Let us hope that the European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament will see everything that you don’t see. And that they will stand by the European media to build a free and diversified Internet.
The original article was written in French and published by LesEchos.