Orange, DT, Telefónica and Vodafone advertising JV cleared by EC

The European Commission has given the green light to a JV by some of the biggest European telcos, which has been formed to develop a new type of digital advertising platform.

The operators describe the venture as a ‘privacy-by-design digital marketing technology platform’ aimed at consumers, advertisers and publishers. Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefónica and Vodafone will each take a 25% stake in the holding company, which will be based in Belgium and run by ‘independent management’.

The platform is supposed to provide a ‘technological solution’ for digital advertising, and has been designed around various EU legislature such as GDPR. A trial has begun in Germany, and more are being considered in France and Spain. The intention is to make it available to any operator within Europe.

It works by requiring ‘affirmative opt-in consent by the consumer to activate communications from brands via publishers.’ The only data that is subsequently shared is a ‘pseudo-anonymous digital token that cannot be reverse-engineered.’ Apparently, you can then opt in or deny consent with a single click, and ‘revoke any other consents given either on the brand’s or publisher’s website, or via a dedicated, easily accessible privacy portal.’

While it’s pitched as a tool for marketers in the release, the intention seems to be about giving consumers more control over their data. The release says: “The platform is specifically designed to offer consumers a step change in the control, transparency and protection of their data, which is currently collected, distributed and stored at scale by major, non-European players.”

“The trial run by Vodafone last year successfully tested the platform on Vodafone’s and Deutsche Telekom’s networks in Germany, together with online publishers and advertisers. This enabled the four operators to evaluate the platform’s ease-of-use in providing consumers with greater control and transparency over how brands communicate with them. Furthermore, the initiative has examined how consumers’ personal data is used and their privacy protected in the online advertising ecosystem, while upholding the principles of a free Internet.”

We’ll have to wait until its in the wild to see what that all actually looks like practically, but the European Commission announcement of its approval says the platform will generate a unique digital code derived from the user’s mobile or fixed network subscription, which will allow advertisers to recognise users on their websites or applications on a ‘pseudonymous basis’, and then ‘group them under different categories and tailor their content to specific users’ groups.’

There’s no doubt firms of all types hoard a worrying amount of data on general populations, and whilst intended to curb unwanted snooping, the cookie consent approval process enforced by GDPR (which was supposed to slow some of that) had the secondary effect of making visiting websites a degree more annoying than it once was.

Telecoms operators might not seem like the most natural candidates to launch themselves into disrupting the digital advertising industry, but since many of them have their sites set on being more than simply providers of connectivity – their core competencies – that could be said of whatever they try their hand at.


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