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PhD defence

Power & Dignity: The Ends of Online Behavioral Advertising

  • A. Zardiashvili
Tuesday 7 May 2024
Academy Building
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden


  • Prof.mr.dr.ir. B.H.M. Custers
  • Prof.dr.mr. S. van der Hof


“Is my phone listening to me?” Many social media users ask this question when facing ads that relate to topics they think they only talked about while offline. The trick is that users often don’t realize how much of their behavior happens online. Online behavioral advertising (OBA) is a form of advertising that relies on data about users’ behavior (e.g., clicks, likes, voice commands) and uses artificial intelligence (AI) to place ads that users may be interested in. Ads that AI chooses to display often leave users in awe and concern them about potential total surveillance. People using these services have (legitimate) expectations that tech companies or democratic institutions protect their interests. Indeed, the European Union (EU) heavily regulates OBA, requiring, for example, that companies have users’ consent before their surveillance. Yet, these ads monetize most “free” online services and turn companies like Alphabet and Meta into the world’s wealthiest. Therefore, the industry is incentivized to acquire consumers’ consent by any means necessary, often through manipulation. As almost everyone has encountered manipulative “cookie banners” online, many have started to doubt if EU law can effectively protect consumers from the growing power of the tech industry. In his thesis, “Power & Dignity: The Ends of Online Behavioral Advertising in the European Union,” Aleksandre Zardiashvili (Lex Zard) argues that the EU framework can safeguard consumers, anticipating that the enforcement of the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA) will put an end to the exploitative practices of the OBA.

PhD dissertations

Approximately one week after the defence, PhD dissertations by Leiden PhD students are available digitally through the Leiden Repository, that offers free access to these PhD dissertations. Please note that in some cases a dissertation may be under embargo temporarily and access to its full-text version will only be granted later.

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