By Russell Campbell

Have you ever considered a return to a world without online mobile technology? While no doubt appealing to a small minority, the prospect would probably be heresy for the vast majority of the population whose lives are dominated by the hook of constant digital interactivity.

The evidence of digital engagement is all around us, perhaps most notably with "wearables", where gadgets or fashion electronics offering tracking and other functions embody the essence of chic style.

From a marketing perspective, while the pace of technological development can prove challenging, the opportunities in terms of customer engagement can be something of a gold mine.

This has led to understandable concerns that the explosion of digital capability is increasingly coming at the expense of consumer exploitation, and a brief glance at the message that says “continued use of this site or app constitutes your approval for the use of cookies” is only the thin end of the wedge.

Governments across the EU and wider afield are concerned at the speed of development and ownership of information for commercial purposes. Indeed, some of the corporations at the centre of advancement are much more powerful than many of the countries considering new legislation.

In the EU there are two major issues under review. The first is the issue of data protection and the forthcoming EU General Data Protection Regulation aiming to curb how online marketers use personal information.

Herein lies a certain irony. Consumers benefit from the use of cookies and apps that save time and we tend to more readily accept advertising that matches products and services in which we are already interested; yet only to a certain extent.

When the experience is dominated by concerns that personal browsing information is being collected and analysed – and more worryingly, shared or insecurely stored – customers will reject the technology or seek avoidance software if they are indeed aware of these issues.

Therefore, the EU is looking not only at protection, but transparency for consumers, much in the same way as the UK Government has previously addressed transparency in the financial services industry.

The second major issue concerns future regulatory development and how structural changes must keep up with problems in respect of copyright, privacy and the protection of groups considered vulnerable.

The placement of advertising of an illegal nature or next to messages targeted at groups considered vulnerable are both keys factors, particularly as digital platforms are so widely used by the very young, and increasingly, the elderly.

In terms of copyright, Google previously pledged to access and display all available historical printed material and there are myriad illustrations of out-of-print works that have seen a new light of day.

Is this a simple and open offer to increase and publicise the sum total of human knowledge or, alternatively, is it evidence of control by a dominant corporation?

There are also other less concerning issues under the watch of legislators, such as the use of "native" advertising. This is when an advertiser replicates the function or style of the platform in which the advert appears, for instance using an editorial format for what is effectively an advert.

Many of the media – and indeed digital giants such as Google – would argue that free or open-source access has to be paid for by someone, and that customised advertising is the optimal means of delivery of technology as it frees the customers from obligatory charges.

However, with more than half of UK advertising expenditure being delivered online this year, enhancements in audience targeting and the effectiveness of the regulatory framework in tackling issues such as advertising fraud and inappropriate advertising placement will not disappear.

From a consumer point of view, the good news is that ad blocking can remove or alter advertising content by targeting technologies employed to deliver content, the behavioural characteristics of the adverts or the URLs.

Technology companies, however, are just as interested in overcoming issues such as ad blocking as consumers are in using it, with key areas such as the use of big data analytics – analysing large data sets to discover correlations and customer behavioural patterns – probably dominating the regulatory agenda next year.

Therefore legislators need to ensure a balance that reflects consumer interests as well as serving the business community.

Russell Campbell is a lecturer in marketing in the Business School at the University of the West of Scotland.