In the October 2018 Budget, the UK Chancellor announced that the CDEI would be exploring the use of data in shaping people’s online experiences. This review forms a key part of their 2019/2020 work programme.

It relates closely to several government workstreams, including the planned Online Harms Bill. It also relates to a number of high-profile regulatory activities, including the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) market study into online platforms and digital advertising, and the Information Commissioner’s Office’s (ICO) code of practice on age appropriate design for online services.

This is the final report of the CDEI’s Review of online targeting and includes their first set of formal recommendations to the government.

Main recommendations:

  • New systemic regulation of the online targeting systems that promote and recommend content like posts, videos and adverts.
  • Powers to require platforms to allow independent researchers secure access to their data to build an evidence base on issues of public concern - from the potential links between social media use and declining mental health, to its role in incentivising the spread of misinformation
  • Platforms to host publicly accessible online archives for ‘high-risk’ adverts, including politics, ‘opportunities’ (e.g. jobs, housing, credit) and age-restricted products.
  • Steps to encourage long-term wholesale reform of online targeting to give individuals greater control over how their online experiences are personalised.
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