The Future of Online Advertising

12 October 2021

At a glance:

  • The rationale for collecting, selling, and sharing data is often based on the need to monetise our attention through the provision of personalised adverts. There is perhaps nothing that exemplifies the modern data economy more than the way that adverts are delivered online.


  • The form of advertising that dominates our online ecosystem, where the advert you see is based on the data, often personal, that the website publisher, and its adtech partners know about you, is very different from the forms we have seen over the last hundred years. 


  • Today technology promises to ensure that we only see ‘relevant’ adverts that we actually want to see, thereby removing the annoyance of advertising and turning it into something useful. In reality, this new form of advertising has not won over a sceptical public, who when given a real choice – as they were recently on Apple iOS devices – reject this form of advertising en masse. In this report we explore some of the many inter-related reasons for this widespread rejection.


  • The present report contends that publishers, SMEs and the free online services, such as search and social media, can all continue to operate without the ability to target specific individuals, just as they survived before tracking-based advertising was invented.


  • We conclude that a ban on the use of personal data to target adverts online has a positive impact on the many negative effects that widespread use of the system creates including individuals’ data rights, the proliferation of disinformation and the decimation of fraud.



Duncan McCann

Will Stronge

Phil Jones

This report was supported by the Greens / EFA in the European Parliament.