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Europe Data Protection Digest | A view from Brussels: A look at the draft regulations on political advertising and how it complements the DSA Related reading: A view from Brussels: EU Council's Czech presidency eyes ambitious fall lineup




Greetings from Brussels! Recess is over, kids are back in school and the corridors of the European Parliament are filling up again. Its next plenary session, the week of 12 Sept., will feature the European Commission’s President State of the Union address. Meanwhile, committees are scheduling meetings with somewhat light agendas ahead of what will arguably be a busy fall (isn’t it always?).

The Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs will discuss, among other things, the draft regulation on transparency and targeting of political advertising proposed by the Commission in November 2011. This regulation is primarily directed at providers of political advertising services with a broader material scope to harmonize their obligations and ensure a high level of transparency across Europe.

This text would have an undeniable interplay with the EU General Data Protection Regulation. It would set rules on personal data processing in addition to GDPR, look at behavioral profiling used to target political messages and require additional safeguards when using targeting and amplification techniques. 

These safeguards include an internal policy that describes targeting or amplification techniques, record keeping on their use, and provide additional information to individuals concerned, i.e., it would codify aspects of the April 2021 European Data Protection Board guidance on the targeting of social media users by making mandatory, in the context of political advertising, information to be provided to the data subject, such as the source of the data and the logic involved.

If you are familiar with the Digital Services Act, you might pick up on some overlap, but the Commission explains how the texts would complement one another:

  • This draft legislation would expand the categories of information to be disclosed in the context of political advertising.
  • It would cover the spectrum of political advertising publishers and service providers involved in political advertising beyond online platforms.
  • It would complement the DSA on requirements to assess “systemic risks by very large online platforms stemming from the functioning and use of systems for selecting and displaying advertisement, with actual or foreseeable effects related to electoral processes.”

Elsewhere, Parliament set up a special committee to investigate revelations surrounding the use of the Pegasus surveillance software. It recently held two hearings, both enlightening and disheartening at the same time, discussing the industry landscape of surveillance software in Europe, the access to an effective remedy for victims of spyware, and “the alleged failure of Member States to act in respect of the involvement of entities in the EU in the development, dissemination, or financing of the Pegasus and equivalent surveillance spyware.” The inquiries continue.


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