The Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum (DRCF) has published its first annual plan of work setting out its priorities for 2021 to 2022.
The DRCF was formed by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and the Office of Communications in June 2020 to enhance coordination and cooperation on the regulation of online services. The Financial Conduct Authority will also be joining in April 2021.
The DRCF’s key areas of focus this year will be on the interrelation between data protection and competition regulation, the Age-Appropriate Design Code and the regulation of video-sharing platforms and online harms. Key projects will include research into service design frameworks, algorithmic processing, end-to-end encryption and digital advertising technologies.
In respect of digital advertising, the DRCF has said it plans to work with the Advertising Standards Authority to develop a ‘holistic’ approach to assessing how the digital advertising sector (including advertising-funded business models) can address potential competition, consumer and privacy harms.
In light of industry proposals to remove third party cookies from all major browsers by 2022, the DRCF states that:
“Third party cookies currently play a fundamental role online and in digital advertising by helping businesses target advertising effectively and fund free online content for consumers, such as newspapers. However, the use of third-party cookies may have implications from a privacy perspective, as they allow consumers’ behaviour to be tracked across the web in ways that many consumers feel uncomfortable with and may find difficult to understand.”
The DRCF has said it will collaborate to understand, review, and inform the development of industry proposals on potential tools for targeted advertising after third party cookies are removed, in such a way that preserves competition in digital advertising whilst also promoting consumers’ privacy and respecting data protection regulations.
The DRCF plans to publish a statement in the first half of 2021 setting out its shared views in this respect, which could help shape the outcomes of the ICO’s and CMA’s ongoing formal investigations into real-time bidding and the ad-tech industry, and third party cookies, respectively.