The Politics Of Privacy And Antitrust; Will Apple (Finally) Enforce Fingerprinting Rules?

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Sharpening Their Tools

Privacy and antitrust enforcement is thorny enough. But coverage often misses the most important fact: Some companies are more popular targets, and others are not.

A $75 billion Google or Amazon acquisition of Activision Blizzard would be challenged. Microsoft’s deal for Activision goes through on skates – and it owns Xbox. 

Apple has facially anticompetitive ad policies. (If Google began self-attributing Play Store installs with the rules Apple uses for App Store installs, it would precipitate simultaneous worldwide lawsuits unlike anything we’ve ever seen.)

But general consumers don’t care about mobile attribution. A politician or appointee who “goes for” Apple will suffer. Targeting Google is a campaign commercial. 

The big loser is Facebook. Facebook is ad-dependent and most reliant on third-party data. But also unpopular.

Privacy and antitrust lawyers in Brussels – the political capital of the EU – openly discuss how the precedent set in the Schrems II decision last year, which blocks US data transfers because of the US government’s warrantless web surveillance, is repurposed to target Silicon Valley giants. GDPR rules intended to stymie Big Tech accidentally reinforced the walled garden value prop. 

Jason Kint, CEO of the publisher trade group DCN, noted in a Twitter thread that lawmakers are learning from prior enforcement which tactics “will hurt Facebook more than the rest of the market.”

Holding On By A Fingerprint

Apple ATT already prohibits device fingerprinting – yet the practice runs rampant.

Why? Because it’s “almost impossible to enforce,” writes Eric Seufert in Mobile Dev Memo. But according to two confidential sources, enforcement is coming later this year.

“Ad tech companies fingerprint through the SDKs of their customers’ apps,” Seufert writes. “To police it, Apple would need to reject updates from app developers that aren’t themselves doing anything wrong.” Apple has turned a blind eye to fingerprinting because ATT largely achieved what it set out to do (no offense, Facebook) and because Apple won’t push developers too hard. Developers were already underwater after the ATT rollout.

Apple must also explore further privacy frontiers to stay ahead of Google. Android is a few years behind iOS policies, but it’s tracking in Apple’s footsteps. 

Ironically, Apple is likely to stay ahead of Android by pilfering a few ideas from Google’s Android Privacy Sandbox, according to Seufert. A proposal called SDK Runtime, for example, creates separate SDK environments for first-party developers rather than plugged-in vendor tech.

To reinforce its lead in terms of mobile privacy, Apple might need to take a page from Google.

When Seeing Red Is Seeing Green

The Trade Desk is going green. 

On Wednesday, Scope3, which gauges emissions based on energy consumed by cloud or on-premises servers, dropped a case study (apparently not a 4.20 joke) showing The Trade Desk’s decision to ditch Google Open Bidding saved the equivalent of 5,387 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. 

The Scope3 metric is calculated by tabulating the energy consumed by data processing in the online ad supply chain. (A publisher that pings many ad tech and identity services and channels impressions through many SSPs likely consumes more CO2 than a clean supply path.)

The Trade Desk’s bigger impetus for leaving Google Open Bidding was Google’s underhanded dealing with Facebook to cripple header bidding – a programmatic innovation that evened the playing field somewhat for Google competitors.

Scope3 co-founder and CEO Brian O’Kelley, co-founder and former CEO of AppNexus, clashed with The Trade Desk when AppNexus and TTD were the top two programmatic companies. But now they can jointly confront the true enemy.

“Based on our calculations, if every programmatic platform stopped buying from Google Open Bidding it would save around 100,000 metric tons of CO2 a year – the same as taking 20,000 cars off the road,” O’Kelley writes in a blog post.

But Wait, There’s More!

Is MrBeast for real? Inside the outrageous world of YouTube’s cash-happy stunt king. [Rolling Stone]

Gupshup acquires AskSid, conversational AI tech for ecommerce and retail companies. [release]

Sony is cooking up plans to run ads in PlayStation games as rival Microsoft considers a similar program with Xbox. [Insider]

The dentsu group Merkle unveils its Experience & Commerce practice. [release]

You’re Hired!

VAB names Benjamin Vandegrift as VP of measurement solutions. [B&C]

Gautam Kotwal joins Data Axle as CTO. [release]

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