How Europe’s new DSA rule could affect app marketing

Author: Steffen Meyer, Mobile Marketing Content Specialist

The European Union’s law initiatives for the digital world are one of the „most sweeping legislation in years“, according to none other than former US president Barack Obama

When you have read our blogpost about the Digital Markets Act (DMA), you will probably agree that the DMA is indeed very sweeping: The legislation will prescribe so-called digital gatekeepers like Google and Apple to share data, to allow external payment systems and to treat all apps as equals.

Quite sweeping as well is its sibling, the Digital Services Act (DSA). While it focuses more on user protection than gatekeeper regulation, it will have consequences for app marketing as well. This is especially true for Article 24 which concerns digital advertising.

Marketers, look closely at Article 24 of the DSA

In the original draft by the European Commission, Article 24 consisted only of one paragraph and three bullet points, outlining new advertising transparency rules.

Then the bill went into the European Parliament, and for its parties, this wasn’t enough. 

After a lot of debating, they adapted some amendments, so
Article 24 not only got longer but gained the whole new Articles 24b, c, d and e, establishing extensive rules and bans.  Let’s go through the most important passages for digital marketers from top to bottom.

Article 24 (1) is about advertising transparency:
All online platforms have to clearly mark advertisements as such and present who paid for them. Additionally, platforms need to explain why users see these ads and inform them on how to change these underlying parameters.

For marketers, this could mean more and more people could opt-out from data tracking, making it harder to personalize, segment and target. 

Article 24 (3) forbids the use of “sensitive data” for targeted advertising.
As defined by Article 9 (1) of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
this means no profiling via

  • racial or ethnic origin 
  • political opinions
  • religious or philosophical beliefs
  • trade union membership
  • genetic data, biometric data for the purpose of uniquely identifying a natural person 
  • data concerning health 
  • data concerning a natural person’s sex life or sexual orientation.

While the processing of this data was already prohibited by the GDPR, it’s now clear that employing it will be as well. 

Article 24a prescribes substantial algorithm transparency. Online platforms need to explain in their terms and conditions the “main parameters used in their recommender systems” and how to modify them as users. They have to do this in “plain and intelligible language”.

This may turn the often ignored terms and conditions into something worth reading. Especially digital marketers should study them intensively, looking for clues to align their strategy with the algorithms.

Article 24b is about the protection of minors, most significantly banning targeted advertising on children: When online platforms “are aware with reasonable certainty that the recipient of the service is a minor” the platform will be required by law to prevent advertising to these particular users.

Since Google and Apple already have certain restrictions on the commercial use of minors’ data, this probably won’t change much in their ecosystems, while other platforms have to adapt. 

Articles 24c, d and e are titled “traceability of traders”, “compliance by design” and “right to information”, which are more of concern to online transactions. If you want to know more about this, have a look here from page 193 onwards.

What happens next?

The bill’s next stop will be the European Council, where the member states will probably make some amendments, too. So nothing’s set in stone yet. We will follow the process closely and update you on any news. 

Until then, study our free Marketing Master Map and follow us on LinkedIn. 

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