No Perfect Solution to Platform Profiling Under Digital Services Act

Jesse McCrosky is Thoughtworks’ Head of Responsible Tech for Finland and a Principal Data Scientist. Claire Pershan is EU Advocacy Lead for the Mozilla Foundation. Regulators in Europe are requiring platforms to provide greater transparency and user control over profiling for recommender systems, including those targeting advertising. The EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA) sets out rules to increase advertising transparency and to give users more insight and control over their content recommendations. Many of the DSA’s requirements for the largest online platforms and search engines take effect on August 25, and compliance-related announcements from the designated services are already rolling in. For instance: Article 26 of the DSA demands that platforms show users meaningful information about the “main parameters” used in targeting and ways to modify these. It also calls for a ban on targeted advertising based on profiling using special categories of personal data identified in Article 9 of in the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), such as data that would reveal an individual’s race, religion, or health status. With respect to recommender systems, Article 27 requires platforms to clearly explain the main parameters that influence what information is suggested to users, and ways to modify these.  Article 28 requires the largest online platforms and search engines to provide users with at least one recommender system option “not based on profiling” of individuals by automated systems as defined in the GDPR. These requirements were hard fought by platform accountability and privacy experts during the negotiations on the DSA. Now…No Perfect Solution to Platform Profiling Under Digital Services Act