While the European institutions debate over the need for a new reform of the ePrivacy and Data Protection Directives, national authorities take on a more hand on approach to protecting internet users' data. For example, the UK's Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) has started a campaign last week that aims to better inform consumers when their data is being gathered online and for what purposes. The campaign is called 'Unzipped' and will last 10 weeks, during which ads will be run online with statements like: 'How do websites know which ads suit your interests?', 'Find out what goes on behind the ads you see online'. If a consumer's attention would be drawn to the ad, he would then notice the zip opening what reveals the AdChoices icon. AdChoices icon has been now used for over a year in the EU markets to try to signal to internet users the targeted online advertisements. Again, an interested and curious internet users could then click through the ad to a website with information on how online advertising works. He would be also given an option to adjust his privacy settings on that website, upon seeing what of his data has already been collected and for what purposes. (IAB UK leads pan-European campaign to give consumers "more control" over targeted online ads)
While this campaign has started in the UK, it is supposed to further follow in other European countries. One problem that I see with it is that it is a short time, one shot action. This means that many consumers would be able to miss it (especially in the holiday period when we should spend last time online). Additionally, the scope of this information is limited - it focuses only on data collected for the purpose of using it in online advertising. Still, it's a step in the right direction of enabling users to better control their privacy online - by informing them more properly about their options and what is happening to their data online.
Interestingly, this news coincide with the publication of a new study on consumers approach to online advertising. Apparently, many consumers don't believe in effectiveness of online advertising (32% - as to online advertising, 50% as to banner advertising). (Study shows consumers believe online marketing to be ineffective) Maybe due to this belief, European consumers seem not to mind when an online advertisement is targeted at them, that is when it is based on their online behaviour - that's a claim of 71% of European consumers (!). (see video below) European consumers apparently want to have their cake (privacy) and eat it to (by getting more customized products and services).