Ed Vaizey: “We’re at a crossroads in internet history”

Minister for Communications, Ed Vaizey recognises importance of digital advertising to UK economy.

  • Vaizey “a huge fan” of behavioural advertising self regulation
  • Encourages Europe to follow UK lead on data protection and privacy law
  • Government backs existing and future development in online advertising self regulation

Communications Minister Ed Vaizey has given his full support to the digital industry’s approach to self policing, and has promised to find a flexible approach to delivering the revised ePrivacy Directive that will avoid “burdensome regulation”.

Vaizey said “we’re at a cross roads in the history of the internet and the UK online industry will reach 10% of GDP by 2015”. He believes that a balance can be struck that will protect consumer privacy and believes business can “reap the rewards of innovation”.

Commenting further on internet advertising’s contribution to the economy, he said “the UK excels in online advertising”. As a result of this success he argued that “the UK is the largest per capita ecommerce market in the world” and “a world leader in spend across digital and mobile combined.”

Vaizey said he is “optimistic” that regulation would work for the UK online industry and made the point that “it’s not just about the big companies such as Facebook and Google”, it’s the smaller businesses from the blog you read in the morning, to the podcast you download in the evening.”

He said that we need to strike a balance between protecting privacy and not restricting innovation in this space. Trust is key and marketers must not “abuse” consumer information. “It’s essential we don’t lose trust.”

Vaizey commented on the growing behavioural advertising sector, which he said “can be beneficial to consumers as well as the companies who serve them”. He said that consumers want control, and need a way to make informed decisions. “There need to be easy to understand controls in place.”

Referring to the ePrivacy Directive, he said the IAB “played an important role” in the Government’s approach to the new law and that the UK is one of the first countries to implement the directive. “We’ve spent a lot of time to try and find a sensible and effective way to implement the Directive,” and added, “users have a right to have control over data and be sure that businesses won’t abuse data”.

“Thanks to sensible dialogue, the UK is in a position to take a lead role in driving this among other EU states.”

Vaizey praised the IAB and the role it played in helping to implement the ePrivacy Directive, which he said was "well directed but not easy to implement". Further, he stated that he is a "huge fan” of the EU Framework for Online Behavioural Advertising.

Vaizey also encouraged publishers and web browser manufacturers to play a role too. Publishers that place cookies on a users’ computer should make them aware. “Give them control over privacy” he said.

Acknowledging IASH, a world leading self regulatory system that protects brand advertising from appearing on websites that host inappropriate or illegal content, Vaizey said that the self regulatory system is “an achievement to be very proud of,” adding that “the system will evolve as industry changes.”

In response to Vaizey’s speech, Nick Stringer, director of regulatory affairs at the IAB, said: “We welcome the Minister’s support for a balance between safeguarding privacy and stimulating data-driven business innovation. We hope the Government will continue to champion this message in its negotiations in Europe on the revised data protection Directive.”

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