The EU seems to have taken the perceived threat from behavioural ads rather too seriously, and has issued a draft of proposed rules on the matter to be voted on next month.

The proposed rules are far stricter than those being suggested by industry bodies such as IAB and actually cover all forms of advertising, including forum posting. There are obvious problems with the UCPD 2005 (Unfair Commercial Practices Directive) which the EU Parliament appear to be trying to address, such as evolving technologies, social networks etc.

However, the onerous nature of the EU approach may mean that advertisers inadvertently become mired in the complexity and depth of the proposed rules, and worse still, that the involvement of consumers in ‘hidden advertising’ e.g. word of mouse, recommendations, reviews etc may result in any site offering forums, reviews etc having to employ moderators to prevent such inadvertent advertising occurring.

There are undoubtedly going to be problems with such seemingly disproportionate laws, and no doubt the advocates for free speech will be out in force if this goes through in its entirety. After all, one of the benefits of the internet has been the unbiased availability of information that does NOT come through online marketing and advertising teams! Whilst some of the draft rules make some sense, e.g. webmail providers should not be permitted to scan the contents of private emails to then target advertising based on content (Gmail does this practice), ditto with social networks.

There is also some focus on geolocation tools and their access to private information to then target advertising, and a proposal that search engines should not be permitted to sell brand names through PPC services without the brand owner’s permission. This last in itself could make for some lengthy client meetings to discuss the pros and cons.

Let’s see how the vote turns out next month….. it could herald profound changes that reverberate far beyond internet marketing.

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About the author:

A practising internet marketing consultant since 1996, Lindsey Annison helps companies improve their website marketing, online PR and information architecture. Lindsey is also a qualified adult education lecturer and author. As co-founder of the Access to Broadband Campaign, she has been instrumental in the provision of high-speed internet access to rural areas in the UK. Lindsey is also a past winner of's Outstanding Contribution to UK Technology