Tech firms have been urged to stop advertising to under-18s in an open letter signed by MPs, academics and children’s-rights advocates.
Behavioural advertising not only undermines privacy but puts “susceptible” youngsters under unfair marketing pressure, the letter says.
It is addressed to Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft.
In a separate move Google-owned YouTube is accused of unlawfully mining data from five million under-13s in the UK.
European data protection laws forbid the mining of data of young children.”The fact that ad-tech companies hold 72 million data points on a child by the time they turn 13 shows the extent of disregard for these laws, and the extraordinary surveillance to which children are subjected,” the letter reads.
“There is no justification for targeting teenagers with personalised ads any more than there is for targeting 12-year-olds.”You, the most powerful companies on the internet, have a responsibility to protect your users.”
YouTube Legal Fight
Among the 23 signatories are MP Caroline Lucas and clinical psychologist Dr Elly Hanson. Friends of the Earth is also named on the letter.
It was co-ordinated by Global Action Plan, which argues that online advertising accelerates consumerism, and adds unnecessary pressure to the planet.
All the firms involved have been asked to comment but none has yet responded. Separately, privacy advocate Duncan McCann is suing Google on behalf of five million British children, claiming it broke privacy laws by tracking children online, in breach of both UK and European data-protection laws.
The case, lodged with the UK High Court in July, will be strongly contested by YouTube which will argue its platform is not for children aged under 13. Mr McCann, who has three children under that age, believes damages of between £100 and £500 could be payable to children who are found to have had their data breached.
In 2019, Google’s ad revenue amounted to almost 134.81 billion US dollars. The company generates advertising revenue through its Google Ads platform, which enables advertisers to display ads, product listings, and service offerings across Google’s extensive ad network (properties, partner sites, and apps) to web users.
Facebook’s business model heavily relies on ads, as the majority of social network’s revenue comes from advertising. In 2019, about 98.5 percent of Facebook’s global revenue was generated from advertising, whereas only around two percent was generated by payments and other fees revenue. Facebook ad revenue stood at close to 69.7 billion U.S. dollars in 2019, a new record for the company and a significant increase in comparison to the previous years. For instance, the social network generated almost seven billion U.S. dollars in ad revenue in 2013, about 10 billion less than the 2015 figure.
Facebook’s average revenue per user also significantly increased in the same time span, going from 6.81 U.S. dollars in 2013 to 24.96 U.S. dollars in 2018. The U.S. and Canada are important markets for Facebook, considering the average revenue per user (ARPU) in these two countries is far above the global average. Facebook’s ARPU in the U.S. and Canada was 34.86 U.S. dollars in the last quarter of 2018, while the global average was 7.37 U.S. dollars. In Europe, Facebook’s average revenue per user was 10.98 U.S. dollars during the same time period.
In terms of segments, mobile is the most promising advertising form for the company. In 2017, Facebook’s mobile advertising revenue already accounted for 88 percent of the social network’s total advertising revenue. Facebook’s mobile advertising revenue is projected to grow from an estimate of 13 billion U.S. dollars in 2015 to 60.68 billion U.S. dollars by 2021, and drive the company’s growth in the coming years.