Access Now welcomes the European Parliament's position on the Regulation on political ads

European Parliament takes important step to protect privacy and freedom of expression in political ads legislation

Access Now welcomes the important first steps taken by the European Parliament in protecting European independent elections. The measures voted on today, 2 February, can help protect the freedom to form an opinion against manipulation in the EU. This vote happened in the context of the ongoing negotiations of the proposed Regulation on political advertising.

“Today’s vote on the proposed Regulation is an important step towards meaningful protection of people’s freedom of opinion and independent elections,” said Eliška Pírková, Senior Policy Analyst and Global Freedom of Expression Lead. “But some important safeguards are still missing, such as a stronger ban on ad targeting. During the next stage of negotiations, it will be pivotal for civil society to ensure that they are solidified.” 

Access Now particularly welcomes the following changes brought by the European Parliament:

  • Narrowing the scope of the proposed Regulation by strictly limiting the scope to paid political content only. This important safeguard will help prevent restricting speech or activism, while a specific carve out for political views, opinions, and editorial content by the media will help protect open civic discourse.
  • Enabling robust transparency of political advertisement by creating Ad Repositories by establishing the European Repositories for online political advertisement. Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPs) such as Meta, Very Large Online Search Engines (VLOSEs) like Google, and any other publisher of political advertisements will have to supply a list of essential information to repositories. 
  • Enhancing user-centric transparency by strengthening individuals’ understanding of who stands behind the advertisement and the groups at whom the advertising is targeted.    
  • Preventing the abuse of people’s sensitive data by banning its use in targeting and ad delivery techniques. Techniques that involve the processing of special categories of personal data are now prohibited. The EP permits only those targeting techniques using data explicitly provided by users.  

Challenges ahead 

Access Now strongly supports the EP’s efforts to protect people’s personal data, but flags there is significant room for improvement, particularly the inclusion of a complete ban of targeting and ad delivery techniques using observed and inferred personal data. Addressing this granular categorisation of data used by private actors — often without peoples’ awareness — would provide high protective standards against abuse and manipulation. 

During the upcoming trilogue negotiations, Access Now will continue to fight for firm safeguards of people’s personal data, powerful enforcement mechanisms, and for people’s absolute freedom to form their political opinions without unjustified interference.