Posted on July 8, 2019 by staff

Mozilla: UK digital ad ecosystem can cause real harm


The public policy manager at Mozilla, the creator of web browser Firefox, has said that security against digital ad tracking must shift away from consumers.

The comments follow the announcement that the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched a wide-reaching investigation into the power that big tech firms, such as Google and Facebook, hold in the digital advertising sector.

“To make privacy real, the burden needs to shift from the consumer to the companies,” Maud Sacquet, public policy manager at Mozilla, told BusinessCloud.

“We strongly believe that meaningful data protection depends on user control and agency, and regulatory change is one avenue to advance that.

“More generally, we know that it is unrealistic to expect individuals to have the time and technical knowledge to dissect privacy policies. To make privacy real, the burden needs to shift from the consumer to the companies.”

Sacquet said that while the digital advertising ecosystem has bankrolled the development of useful, user-focused products and services, it now requires change.

“The ecosystem that underpins it has serious problems and is defined today by pervasive cross-site tracking, ad fraud and acute centralisation,” she said.

“A mix of technological innovation such as enhanced tracking protection, legislation such as the GDPR and brand pressure can address some of the chronic issues that are leading users’ to install ad blockers in record numbers.”

While users can expect to see ads during their browsing experience, Sacquet said that pervasive ad tracking can be used for serious harm online and in the real world.

“The data collected by these trackers can create real harm, for example by enabling divisive political ads or driving discrimination in housing.

“When seeing a piece of misinformation online, an interesting question to ask is where the data came from that suggested you would be such an inviting target.”

The organisation introduced ‘Enhanced Tracking Protection’ by default for new Firefox users last month, protecting them from the pervasive tracking and collection of personal data by ad networks and tech companies.

“For Mozilla, these issues of innovation and openness speak to our history,” she said.