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Let’s make surveillance-based advertising illegal

news  Paul Jarvis · Jul 7, 2021

Recently, the Norwegian Consumer Council published a report calling for a ban on surveillance-based ads. In solidarity, Fathom and other privacy-focused companies signed the following letter on Wednesday, July 7th, to EU and US regulators to encourage them to take action during legislative sessions and any relevant privacy discussions.

From the beginning, Fathom has been committed to digital privacy and being GDPR, CCPA and PECR compliant. We not only pioneered a method for anonymizing visitor traffic, but also for being compliant to the Schrems II ruling (processing all EU visitor data on servers in the EU, owned by a company in the EU).

Since we started our company, we've been committed to digital privacy and privacy laws. That's why we've never collected any personally identifiable information from visitors, making us GDPR, CCPA and PECR compliant. Adhering to privacy laws is at the top of our list, and we pioneered a method to stay compliant with the Schrems II ruling months before the first EU DPA ruled that Google Analytics are illegal.

At Fathom, we’ve always felt that targeted advertising should be banned, so we are in full support of this letter. True to this belief that changing a broken revenue model based on spying, 13 other tech companies have also co-signed this letter with us. Together, we can demonstrate that digital privacy for everyone is good business, and that EU and US regulations should support this initiative with us.

Here's the letter:

Recently, the Norwegian Consumer Council published a report calling for a ban on surveillance-based ads. In solidarity, we the undersigned will be sending the following letter on Wednesday, July 7th, to EU and US regulators to encourage them to take action during legislative sessions and any relevant privacy discussions.

Ban surveillance advertising-ads

Time to ban surveillance-based advertising

Surveillance-based advertising permeates the internet today, creating a number of highly problematic issues for both consumers and businesses.

On June 23, a broad coalition of consumer rights organizations, civil rights groups, NGOs, as well as academics, researchers, privacy experts and enthusiasts - all concerned individuals - called on regulators to stop the invasive and privacy-hostile practices related to surveillance-based advertising.

In the EU, they urged regulators to consider a ban on surveillance-based advertising as a part of the Digital Services Act. In the U.S., they urged legislators to enact comprehensive privacy legislation.

We are a group of businesses who write to you today to show our support to this initiative. We represent small, medium and large businesses who all believe - and demonstrate on a daily basis - that it is possible to run profitable companies without exploiting the privacy of individuals.

In addition to the clear privacy issues caused by surveillance-based advertising, it is also detrimental to the business landscape.

In the surveillance-based advertising model, a few actors can obtain competitive advantages by collecting data from across websites and services and dominant platform actors can abuse their positions by giving preference to their own services.

These practices seriously undermine competition and take revenue away from content creators. Anti-competitive behaviour and effects serve to entrench dominant actors’ positions while complex supply chains and ineffective technologies lead to lost revenues for advertisers and publishers.

It is also difficult for consumers to distinguish between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ actors in the digital sphere, which means that legitimate actors, amongst them many small and medium sized enterprises, are directly affected by the actions of unscrupulous companies.

This harms consumers and businesses, and can undermine the cornerstones of democracy.

Although we recognize that advertising is an important source of revenue for content creators and publishers online, this does not justify the massive commercial surveillance systems set up in attempts to “show the right ad to the right people”.

Other forms of advertising technologies exist, which do not depend on spying on consumers, and alternative models can be implemented without significantly affecting revenue. On the contrary - and that we can attest to - businesses can thrive without privacy-invasive practices.

We encourage you to take a stand and ban surveillance-based advertising.

With kind regards,

  1. Vivaldi Technologies
    Jon von Tetzchner, CEO & Tatsuki Tomita, COO
  2. Fastmail
    Bron Gondwana, CEO
  3. Fathom Analytics
    Jack Ellis & Paul Jarvis, Co-Founders & Directors
  4. Proton Technologies
    Dr. Andy Yen, CEO
  5. Tutanota
    Matthias Pfau, Co-Founder & CEO
  6. Duck Duck Go
    Gabriel Weinberg, Founder & CEO
  7. Disconnect
    Casey Oppenheim, Co-Founder & CEO
  8. Mojeek
    Colin Hayhurst, CEO
  9. Ecosia
    Christian Kroll, CEO
  10. Startpage
    Robert E.G. Beens, Co-Founder & CEO
  11. Nextcloud
    Frank Karlitschek, Founder & CEO
  12. Kobler
    Erik Bugge, CEO
  13. Strossle International
    Håkon Tillier, CEO & Rickard Lawson, CMO
  14. Mailfence
    Patrick De Schutter, Co-Founder & Managing Director

Fathom has never and will never give/sell data to any surveillance-based advertising companies or data brokers.

This is not our business model, nor is it how we feel businesses can be sustainable. If you'd like to give privacy-focused analytics a try, check out our 30-day free trial of Fathom Analytics. We're GDPR-compliant, our script loads faster than Google Analytics, and our business model is honest: we charge a fair price for our software. Make your website a black-hole to surveillance-capitalism by using Fathom to protect your website visitors.

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Paul Jarvis

Paul Jarvis, author + designer

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