IAB Tech Lab releases specification for DSA Transparency

IAB Tech Lab releases specification for DSA Transparency

The IAB Tech Lab this week announced the release of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) specification for DSA Transparency. The specification is designed to help Online Platforms comply with the Digital Services Act (DSA), which goes into effect on February 17, 2024.

The DSA is a regulation that pertains to online intermediaries and platforms and is applicable across the whole EU. The primary goal of the DSA is to enhance the trust of both individual consumers and business users when utilizing online platforms. This extends to the products, services, and advertisements they encounter on these platforms. Specifically, the DSA establishes transparency requirements related to advertising; these obligations apply to Online Platforms, “Very Large Online Platforms” (VLOPs), and “Very Large Online Search Engines” (VLOSEs) as defined by the Digital Services Act.

Article 26 of the DSA requires Online Platforms to ensure that users have real-time access to certain elements of information about any ad shown to them on an Online Platform:

  • That the ad is indeed an ad
  • The identity of the advertiser
  • The identity of the party that financed the ad, if it is different from the advertiser
  • Information about the “main parameters” used to select the ad presented to the end-user
  • Where applicable, information about any means users may have at their disposal to change those main parameters

Although the DSA focuses on regulating Online Platforms, these entities often do not possess immediate access to the data mandated by this regulation. As a result, adtech intermediaries play a crucial role in aiding Online Platforms in meeting their compliance obligations. The objective of the MVP specification is to leverage established standards, particularly openRTB, for the transfer of the necessary transparency information.

The specification introduces the following extensions in OpenRTB 2.x:

  • Extension in Object:Regs – allows for publishers to indicate that a transaction is subject to DSA and whether they will render the required transparency information themselves
  • Extension in Object:Bid – allows for DSPs to provide publishers with the requested transparency information and indicate whether they will render the required transparency information

IAB Tech Lab emphasizes the initial version is designed as an MVP to satisfy a near-term market regulatory requirement. The Tech Lab will iterate on the solution and continue to look to IAB Europe for policy and requirements guidance.

The Digital Services Act (DSA)

The Digital Services Act (DSA) is a regulation in EU law that aims to update the Electronic Commerce Directive 2000 regarding illegal content, transparent advertising, and disinformation. It was submitted along with the Digital Markets Act by the European Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union on 15 December 2020.

The DSA was adopted by the European Parliament on 20 July 2022 and by the Council of the European Union on 5 October 2022. It was published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 27 October 2022 and entered into force on 24 November 2022.

The DSA applies to all online intermediary services that operate in the EU, regardless of their size or location. This includes social media platforms, online marketplaces, search engines, and hosting services.

The DSA has a number of objectives, including:

  • Protecting users from illegal content: The DSA requires online intermediaries to take measures to prevent the dissemination of illegal content on their platforms. This includes removing illegal content as soon as it is brought to their attention, and taking measures to prevent the re-uploading of illegal content.
  • Promoting transparency and accountability: The DSA requires online intermediaries to be transparent about their content moderation policies and procedures. They must also provide users with easy-to-access information about their rights and how to exercise them.
  • Protecting users from harmful content: The DSA requires online intermediaries to take measures to protect users from harmful content, such as hate speech, disinformation, and terrorist content. This may include measures such as age verification, content filtering, and user education.
  • Promoting fair competition: The DSA prohibits online intermediaries from engaging in unfair practices that could harm competition. This includes practices such as self-preferencing, gatekeeping, and data hoarding.

The DSA is a significant piece of legislation that will have a major impact on the way that online services operate in the EU. It is designed to make the online world a safer and more trustworthy place for users.


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