The world has changed, could this initiative succeed where others failed to dent Big Tech?
As expected, the European Commission has approved a joint venture between Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica and Vodafone Group to set up an advertising platform.
The four claim this will “benefit consumers, advertisers and publishers alike” and that the platform, which is still in development, has “been designed from the outset to be compliant with European data protection policy such as GDPR and the ePrivacy directive”.
A trial is underway in Germany with further ones planned in France and Spain. Customers must opt in (rather than the default being they don’t object) to receive communications from brands via publishers.
Customers in control
Customers can opt out at any time with a single click and also reverse any permissions given to brands via their websites, the publisher’s website or a privacy portal.
Customers’ personal data is anonymous, shared via a digital token which cannot be reverse engineered.
The idea is to give consumers transparency and control at all times, and to protect their privacy and data. As the four point out, currently this data is often “collected, distributed and stored at scale by major, non-European players” – that is, by Big Tech-owned platforms like Google, Facebook, Apple et al.
Each of the four holds a 25% stake in the JV and say the platform will be make available to all other European operators. The joint venture holding company will be based in Belgium and run by independent management under the oversight of a shareholder-appointed supervisory board.
Previous attempts by operators have failed to dent the dominance of digital native platforms – anyone remember the Wholesale Applications Community (WAC) launched at MWC in 2012 as an alternative app store?
But times have changed. Globalisation is not the force it was with huge rifts between China and the West, and especially the US, has had a profound impact on trade and technology, including supply chains. The fears of industrial and other espionage are becoming more real by the day with four similar objects shot down over the US and Canada’s airspace within a week, one of which was most definitely a balloon from China equipped with surveillance equipment.
In addition to geopolitics, the big platforms face growing regulatory scrutiny, particularly in the EU and the US; for example with the US’ Department of Justice recently stating it intends to break up Google because of its market dominance in search. Facebook (now Meta) has faced many waves of criticism for the allegedly reckless way it has used and allowed other parties to use the personal data of its users, which appears to prioritise profit over everything else.
Then there is Russia’s war against Ukraine and its many and complex implications.
All have had the effect of distrust and a turning inwards. Just maybe the four operators’ timing with an apparently trustworthy, all-European endeavour will prove a zeitgeist – on the other hand, the fact that TikTok is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance appears to be of far less importance than the fact it is fun to its estimated 45 million daily active users.