Are EU personal data regulations feeding into the platformization of the economy?

Research output: Unpublished contribution to conferenceUnpublished paper


Situation The online advertising market is growing at a fast pace, but growth is not distributed evenly: an estimated 50% of global spending on online advertising is going into the coffers of only two companies, Facebook and Google. With reason; from an advertiser’s point of view, the rich data sets Google and Facebook hold allow for very granular and data-driven personalized advertising options. These rich sets of personal data have come about through subscription-based business models providing end-users with “empowering and enriching social experiences” (Van Dijck, 2013), even if they worry about their privacy and the monetization of personal data. Smaller, non-subscription based personalized advertising services rely on third-party cookies combined with data collected by publishers to improve advertisement relevance, which to end-users appears as an unappealing, complicated ecosystem consisting of unknown, opaque intermediaries. This market imbalance between the big platforms and local advertising services was already shown prevalent in Breuer, Heyman, & Van Der Graaf (2015). Problem The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and its accompanying e-Privacy Regulation (ePR) curtail the use of third-party cookies and other tracking techniques. At first glance, this may obliterate cookie-based personalization in advertising in favour of subscription-based models. Regardless of improved data protection rights for end-users, the question remains if these new regulations will skew the playing field in terms of market concentration. Are the new regulations going to improve the market position of the duopoly or are there opportunities for smaller personalized online display advertisers? Relevance Google and Facebook have not one but two dominant positions. They have a monopoly on user attention and retention and they have a duopoly in personalized online display ads. In this case, it is interesting to see how and if two American companies benefit from European regulations that further decrease the possibilities of European companies to challenge them. Under the GDPR and ePR, end-users will ostensibly have more control over the collection and processing of (personal) data, but this may prove to be a Pyrrhic victory if the (micro)targeted advertising practices of the major platforms become the norm. Method We draw upon value networks (Ballon, 2007; Allee, 2009) as our main conceptual framework to frame the changes caused by the GDPR in the small Belgian online display advertising market in 2017-18. Our data collection consists of desk research combined with in-depth interviews and participatory workshops with online display advertising companies in Belgium. Outcomes This paper will provide answers to the need for a response to the platformization of the internet. Will the response be more platformization or are there different opportunities to balance the market in favour of a diversity of players?
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventAmsterdam Privacy Conference 2018 - Roeterseiland, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Duration: 5 Oct 20188 Oct 2018


ConferenceAmsterdam Privacy Conference 2018
Abbreviated titleAPC 2018
Internet address


  • GDPR
  • platformization

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Are EU personal data regulations feeding into the platformization of the economy?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this