As recently as June, we reported that TikTok would like to make personalized advertising mandatory for its users. Now, however, European users can breathe a sigh of relief, because for the time being there will be no compulsion to display personalized advertising. The reason for this is that first of all the relevant data protection authorities want to conduct their final review.
Compulsion to personalized advertising in data protection regulations
It has already become clear a few times that the Chinese short video portal does not take the issue of data protection quite so seriously. Most recently, it came to light that TikTok can view all of its users’ data. Today, the latest data protection regulations for Europe come into force. At the same time as the new regulations on data protection, a new regulation on personalized advertising should actually also come into force. More specifically, users of the service who are of legal age must now accept the display of personalized advertising. Until now, it was possible to deactivate this in the app’s settings. However, this is now to be put to an end.
Of course, this is primarily due to economic concerns. It is an open secret that far more money can be earned with personalized advertising than with conventional advertising. In detail, it looks like this. TikTok evaluates which videos are consumed by a user of legal age and then assigns them to a certain group on the basis of this. The company’s advertisers can then choose to display their ads to specific groups of people. Far more money can be earned with this advertising offer than with conventional advertising.
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Differing views on policy issues
Of course, the question is what exactly TikTok means now by the concerns of the data protection authorities. Arguably, it is a matter of differing views on what exactly constitutes “legitimate interests.” The term appears in EU law and is considered an exception for when data may be collected for personalized advertising without explicit consent. If there is no such interest, users must have freedom of choice. Consequently, TikTok must now prove to the relevant data protection authorities that it has a legitimate interest in collecting data. From the Chinese company’s point of view, of course, the interest undoubtedly exists.
However, the other side, in the form of the EU data protection authorities, very much doubts the existence of such an interest. Italy’s data protection authority plays a major role in this. It even warned TikTok last week that its plan to make personalized advertising compulsory was illegal. The data protection authority has not only seen problems due to violations of Italian and EU data protection law. On top of that, there are justified doubts that TikTok will really only force personalized advertising on users of legal age. After all, the service’s age verification is not really reliable.
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