Online data protection: majority of consumers reject personalised advertising

vzbv: consumers must be protected from tracking and profiling for advertising purposes

  • Six years after its introduction: consumer protection still greatly benefits from GDPR
  • 70 percent of consumers opposed to profiling for advertising purposes
  • vzbv: time to finally close loopholes regarding tracking and profiling for advertising purposes
Frau schaut verwirrt auf einen Laptop und fasst sich an den Kopf

Credit: Adobestock Chanelle Malambo/

On the internet or when using apps, consumers constantly have to decide whether and how their data can be collected, merged, and used for advertising purposes. However, the technical background is complex and the online advertising market lacks transparency which makes informed choices almost impossible. For six years, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has played an important role in protecting personal data. However, there are some loopholes in the legislation – which disadvantage consumers. The Federation of German Consumer Organisations (Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband – vzbv) wishes to see tracking and profiling banned.

“The GDPR was and remains a great benefit to consumers. Yet, the current legislation does not go far enough. Tracking and profiling should be prohibited. People do not want to be permanently tracked and have their data merged to form profiles designed to exploit their vulnerabilities,” says Ramona Pop, Executive Director of vzbv.

“However, instead of closing the loopholes in the legislation, the EU has spent seven years discussing an ePrivacy Regulation, with nothing to show for it. We need to start over. The next European Commission should make consumer protection a key focal point and finally ban tracking and profiling for advertising purposes. People need to be able to navigate all spaces, including digital spaces, without being under constant surveillance.”

Ban profiling for advertising purposes

Many consumers feel uneasy about personalised ads. A representative forsa survey commissioned by vzbv reveals the following: Seven out of ten persons surveyed (70 percent) agree that, as a rule, companies should not be allowed to merge data into profiles in order to create personalised ads. Almost nine out of ten consumers (89 percent) state that companies should only be allowed to use personal data when users know the purpose.

“There is huge potential for abuse with respect to personalised advertising, ranging from the manipulation of purchasing decisions to discrimination,” Pop says. “Advertising companies categorise people based on personal preferences and vulnerabilities, and use these aspects to influence them. This needs to stop.”

Advertising companies use key words to categorise consumers, such as “Marlboro”, “weight loss”, “vulnerable senior citizens”, “speculative investments”, “probability of defaulting on payment – highest risk”, or “casinos and gambling”. Based on these categories, consumers are shown ads that target their particular behavioural patterns and in some cases their vulnerabilities. This undermines the protection of personal data and privacy, enables manipulation, and facilitates discrimination.

Europe can do more!

The Federation of German Consumer Organisations (vzbv) has issued a total of 24 key recommendations concerning consumer policy for the next European legislative period:


Representative telephone survey (11/03–28/03/2024) carried out by forsa for vzbv. Basis: 1,500 persons aged 14 and over. Statistical error tolerance: max. ± 3 percentage points.




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