Open Letter: Abolish manipulative dark patterns and creepy online ads, ask 72 civil society organisations
Ahead of the upcoming Digital Services Act (DSA) trilogue meeting on 15 March, EDRi, Liberties and Amnesty International and 69 other civil society organisations have sent a joint open letter to 20 ministers and state secretaries in 9 EU Member States. On Tuesday 1.03.2022, several organisations in the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Luxembourg, Austria, Croatia delivered the letter to relevant decisionmakers responsible for their country's position in the EU negotiations.
UPDATE: After publication, the letter was further delivered to responsible ministries in Ireland and Poland, totaling the number of addressed Member States to 11.
Ahead of the upcoming Digital Services Act (DSA) trilogue meeting on 15 March, EDRi, Liberties and Amnesty International and 69 other civil society organisations have sent a joint open letter to 20 ministers and state secretaries in 9 EU Member States.
On Tuesday 1.03.2022, several organisations in the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Luxembourg, Austria, Croatia delivered the letter to relevant decisionmakers responsible for their country’s position in the EU negotiations.
The Digital Services Act is an enormous opportunity to address the toxic consequences of online platforms’ business models based on exploitative tracking and targeting of people. Such consequences include amplification of harmful content, distorted public debate and discrimination of people.
The letter calls for a phase-out of unwanted online tracking ads and dark patterns. Additionally, the call emphasises the need for the DSA to safeguard the privacy protections we all have under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
“The DSA must put an end to manipulative tracking ads practices that have infested every corner of the internet. Pervasive online tracking is fueling harm – from discriminatory job ads to Russian lies about their war in Ukraine. We urge Ministers in the EU to support the European Parliament’s proposals against tracking ads and dark patterns.” — says Jan Penfrat, Senior Policy Advisor at EDRi.
Dark patterns are manipulative interfaces designed to trick users into unintentionally consenting to share their personal data.
Tracking-based online advertising relies on mass harvesting of personal data and algorithmic inferences which threaten our human rights, above all the right to privacy. However, this has a series of knock-on effects on other rights including freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of thought, and the right to equality and non-discrimination.
“The targeted advertising model is based on personal data harvesting. It manipulates public debate, amplifies harmful content, and sows division in society. We can see long-term consequences of keeping people in an information bubble, decreasing the level of public discussion, and using targeting to spread disinformation, which impacts free and fair elections.” — Eva Simon, Senior advocacy officer at Civil Liberties Union For Europe
The majority of people actually do not want personalised ads and opt against tracking when given a real choice. Even, small and medium-sized businesses would like to see large online platforms face stricter regulation on how they use personal data for ad targeting.
“By supporting key amendments to the Digital Services Act, EU member states will take important steps towards changing the current system of invasive data harvesting and microtargeting.” — said Alia Al Ghussain, Campaigns and Communications Officer at Amnesty Tech.
The DSA has the potential to change the broken system based on data harvesting and protect the fundamental rights of internet users. In order to do so, the DSA must phase out the pervasive online tracking business model and prohibit dark patterns that trick users into sharing personal data they would not otherwise want to.
Read the letter in English, German, Croatian, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch.