New EU Rules Require Permission to Use Data for Political Ads

The European Parliament and the Council of Europe have reached a provisional agreement on new rules that will require political campaigns to get permission from citizens before using their data for targeting. The agreement must still be officially approved by both bodies before it can take effect.

The new rules are designed to protect citizens from information manipulation and foreign interference in elections. They will make it easier for citizens to recognize political advertisements and understand who is behind them. They will also limit the ability of foreign actors to use advertising to affect elections.

Key Points of the New Rules

  • Advertisers will only be permitted to utilize personal data if citizens explicitly give their consent for the specific purpose of online political ads.
  • The use of “special categories of personal data”, such as gender, sexual orientation, and ethnicity, to target citizens with political ads will be banned.
  • The use of data of minors will be banned as well.
  • The aim of the new regulation is to help citizens, journalists, and law enforcement understand who is behind the financing of political campaigns and how much they are spending.
  • Violators will face sanctions of up to 6 percent of their annual income.
  • The European Commission will also establish a publicly accessible database that will store all online political advertisements and related information for up to seven years.

Impact of the New Rules

The new rules will apply only to paid political advertisements. Excluded from the ban will be newsletters and emails regarding elections by political parties and NGOs, personal opinions, or political views, which are protected by freedom of expression in the EU.

Once approved, the rules will take effect after 18 months. Certain aspects of the laws, particularly those related to non-discriminatory cross-border political advertising, will already be in effect for the European elections scheduled between June 6 and 9, 2024.

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