Breaking the false binary between competition and privacy and ensuring closer collaboration between regulators and tech companies is key to successfully developing privacy safeguards in Mozilla, Mozilla official says the field of adtech.
“For meaningful change to take place, regulation and technology will really have to go hand in hand to ensure that the best possible outcome is achieved”Udbhav Tiwari, senior global public policy manager at Mozilla, told EURACTIV.
In one of the most publicized examples of this type of interaction, the UK Competition and Markets Authority (Competition and Markets AuthorityCMA) earlier this year accepted commitments from Google regarding its plan to phase out third-party cookies from Chrome by 2022.
The tech giant presented a series of proposals for “ Privacy Sandbox ”, which, according to him, constitute an alternative means of delivering targeted advertisements, without depending on direct access to the personal data of users.
Last year, the CMA began investigating the competition implications of these proposals. Last February, she accepted the company’s final commitments regarding the improvements to be made. As part of the agreement, the CMA will oversee the implementation of the changes, which are to be applicable globally.
Mozilla, which removed third-party cookies from its Firefox browser in 2019, generally welcomed these Google proposals and the CMA’s involvement in overseeing them, but cautioned against perpetuating a dichotomy between privacy and competition concerns.
“In the adtech space in particular, a false dichotomy is being created around competition and privacy” Mr. Tiwari explained, pointing to the fact that most countries have separate regulators, the main exception being the Federal Trade Commission(FTC) of the United States.
For adtech solutions to be better developed and implemented, he said, this false dichotomy and the tension that has been created between competition and privacy“really require regulators to collaborate a lot more with each other” .
Some efforts have already been made to this end. In the UK, for example, although the main regulators in this area — the CMA and the Information Commissioner’s Office — be separate entities, a new organization created in 2021, the Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum (DRCF), brought together these two agencies as well as the Financial Conduct Authorityinto a single grouping to facilitate collaborative work and discussion on digital regulatory issues.
Breaking out of existing silos is not only a relevant lesson in regulation, Mr. Tiwari added, but it also applies to industry players themselves.
Speaking at a panel discussion organized as part of the 2022 Computers, Privacy and Data Protection Conference held this week in Brussels, he noted that the development of these Privacy measures are often done within companies and therefore lack transparency and collaboration.
These proposals can start within companies, he told EURACTIV, “but they really need to be developed in open format organizations”not only so that tech players can validate the assumptions on which they are based and ensure that they achieve the expected results, but “essentially to ensure they are part of the web rather than being a proprietary solution developed within a technology company”.
” These standards bodies are the best place for new ideas to develop for the web”did he declare,“because they allow the participation of a wide range of stakeholders. They have pretty strong oversight mechanisms in committees that manage everything from the format in which the standard is written to the way it is tested.».
“The advantage is that if something is created through this process, it allows the rest of the ecosystem rather than the entity that is just proposing the standard to have a valid opinion on how it should be developed he added.
The standards, however, cannot go further in solving problems in areas such as privacy, he added, citing the provisions of the Digital Services Act ( Digital Services ActDSA) recently approved that prohibit the use of sensitive data in advertisements and the targeting of advertisements to minors as examples of regulations covering areas not covered by industry standards.
Overall, Tiwari concluded, much closer collaboration between tech companies and regulators will be needed in the future to find effective answers to these kinds of questions.
“There are things that technology can actually fix, because it can intervene more quickly and prevent harm from happening. But that doesn’t mean relying entirely on technology and ignoring regulations,”did he declare.“There are a lot of harms and a lot of practices that really regulation is able to fix because it’s not in the mandate of technology. »