On February 10th 2023, the European Commission (EC) approved the creation of a Joint Venture between Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefónica and Vodafone to compete in a sub-sector of Internet advertising. More specifically, that of intermediation between advertisers (brands) and publishers (websites), where a company accounts, in certain cases, for more than 80% of the display ads served to users.
Advantages of TrustPID
TrustPID applies to brands and online publishers that have signed up to the service, allowing users -who have agreed to receive advertising from such brands,- to have full control over the advertisements they receive in such webs. Furthermore, it provides a level of privacy that prevents users online activity from being tracked by any involved party.
This fundamental difference means that, through TrustPID, it is impossible to create personalised profiles of users based on their historical browsing across the Internet. At the same time, it does allow users to receive advertisements from the websites they visit and themselves authorise. Therefore, it complies with current data protection regulations and fulfils the principles that the future ePrivacy Regulation intends to implement in Europe. It is, thereby, a service that embodies European values from the moment it is designed.
This EC endorsement process has highlighted several aspects that are highly relevant for Europe and its aspirations for digital sovereignty:
- Firstly, the need for European companies to cooperate to innovate. In this way, they can acquire sufficient scale to enable them to compete in services or digital markets where they had no presence. And where some of the established players maintain very high market shares, which, far from diminishing, are increasing over time.
- Secondly, the complications posed by that same cooperation to innovate in a hyper- regulated sector, such as the European telecommunications companies. It is not easy to compete in markets where there are new entrants with large digital players that enjoy clear market power without being regulated (or only very recently thanks to the Digital Markets Act, which is still in the testing phase).
- Thirdly and finally, that it is perfectly possible to strike a balance between privacy protection, innovation and the creation of new generation services when this is designed from the outset -privacy by design-.
Cooperation to promote a balanced competitive environment
It is difficult, if not impossible, for operators alone to become large enough to compete with the Internet giants in digital services. This has been demonstrated by Telefonica, Mozilla and ZTE’s attempt to launch a Firefox OS mobile operating system as an alternative to Android and Apple.
Only by cooperating to adopt innovations in a coordinated way, can operators acquire the necessary scale to offer alternative services that convince brands and advertisers. This is why TrustPID´s proposal will be open to all operators. The greater the number of end-users to whom the advertisements can be presented, the greater the chance of success of this alternative will be.
To facilitate this search for scale in order to be able to compete with the large digital players, European regulation must broaden its approach. Especially in cases where this is done through commercial agreements between operators or through an M&A operation, as in this case. This authorisation by the European Commission is great news and a clear benefit for Europe. It supposes the creation of a new competitor with the necessary scale to be able to challenge the market power of the current global digital players.
A regulatory framework that encourages cooperation
Presumptions of compatibility with competition law should be generated to allow operators to cooperate to innovate more easily. It is crucial to reduce the complexity of merger control processes and the self-assessment of cooperation’s based on commercial agreements. We have a great example of this with the international roaming service, which was forged under the GSMA and which continues today for the Internet of Things (IoT) or Machine-to-Machine (M2M) issues.
What would have happened if every time a network configuration, or charging models, or agreements on how to route signalling traffic related with roaming services that were agreed at the GSMA, we had to go through such complicated processes of oversight, not just from Europe, but from all the regulators in the world?
Privacy by design in TrustPID
Concerns about user privacy and the use of their data, which affects the current digital advertising ecosystem as the backbone of Internet content, seemed to be unresolvable with today’s cookie-based technologies. In particular, users have lost control over the use of their online data and hardly remember where and when they accepted cookie banners, much less know how to revoke these consents. In other words, all these consents are alive on the Internet forever.
Differently, TrusPID offers the user the possibility to see and control all the consents he/she has given on the Internet, whenever he/she wishes, in a simple way and through a single point of reference: The privacy portal of TrustPID.
This is what makes TrustPID a real game changer. It shows that it is possible to boost the development of Internet and regain digital sovereignty under the European values of consumer protection. An Internet with customer centric and privacy first services is possible.
All in all, in a globalised digital world, size is key to success. Therefore, Europe must continue to facilitate and encourage collaboration between companies to innovate solutions that reach sufficient scale and underpin European digital sovereignty.