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Protecting User Data Privacy In Digital Advertising

Digital advertising has become an essential part of the modern economy, allowing businesses like Amazon and Google to reach their target audiences with relevant and timely messages. 

However, digital advertising also relies on the collection and use of personal data, which raises concerns about user privacy.

You recently checked out Nike Air Jordan 1 sneakers on Amazon, and suddenly, there’s an ad for them on your Facebook feed. You’ve been listening to podcasts about self-improvement, and there’s an ad for a MasterClass on productivity. It’s almost as if these platforms read your mind. The recommendations are so accurate that you find yourself thinking, “How do they know me so well?”

When you watch a movie on Netflix, the service uses your viewing history to recommend more movies and TV shows you might like. This personalized experience is a testament to the power of targeted advertising, but it also raises questions about privacy and company transparency.

Online advertising is a lucrative revenue stream for tech giants, especially Google, as the growing number of smartphones creates a growing market for personalized and localized ads. 

According to Statista, in 2022, Google’s ad revenue amounted to $224.47bn. Companies that use targeted advertising make an estimated five to six per cent gain in profit than those who don't.


The cornerstone of the Nigerian Data Protection Act, 2023 is in the empowerment of individuals by giving them control over their personal information and ensuring that organisations act responsibly when collecting, storing, and processing data. 

That empowerment is deeply rooted in section 25(1)(a) of the NDP Act which mandates data controllers to seek explicit and informed consent of data subjects before processing their personal data. Considering advertising involves the accumulation and analysis of data about a person’s preferences, political affiliations, and family life, to name a few examples, data subjects must be informed of what they’re getting into before their data is processed.

Many companies use sneaky data collection methods by hiding consent clauses in long and confusing 'Terms of Use' agreements. This can lead to users accidentally consenting to data collection, which violates their right to choose. 

Websites and apps should clearly and concisely explain why they use cookies and give users the choice to opt in or out of data collection. Users should not be tracked unless they explicitly agree to it.

Users often face challenges in understanding the intricacies of data collection, its purpose, and the extent to which their information is utilised. Advertisers must be transparent about data practices, clearly informing users about data collection methods and how it’s used for personalised ads. Platforms need to offer more transparent and accessible controls for users to manage their data, as mandated by section 24(1)(a) ) of the NDP Act.

The large amount of user data collected for targeted advertising creates a significant security risk. This is because the more data that is collected and stored, the greater the risk of a security breach or misuse. 

The large volume of data makes it easier for hackers to attack, increasing the risk of data breaches, unauthorized access, or misuse of sensitive personal information. Implementing strict cybersecurity protocols and conducting regular security assessments are essential to reducing the risk of potential breaches.

Internet giants are increasingly motivated to maximize profits from personalized content, which has created challenges in the areas of consent, transparency, and data security. 

However, there is a way to make targeted advertising more responsible and ethical through comprehensive solutions. Giving users clear and easy-to-use controls over their data, as well as implementing strong cybersecurity measures, are essential for protecting user privacy and trust.


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