“Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is written by Anthony Katsur, CEO of the IAB Tech Lab.
I recently attended the IAPP’s Global Privacy Summit in Washington, DC. There was frank talk about the future of privacy across industries, including digital advertising.
I heard it loud and clear: We need to find a balance between privacy and sustaining an ad-supported digital media ecosystem. But no one will tolerate half measures going forward. The world has changed, and the digital advertising industry must change with it today.
“Privacy and competition are not in competition, and any new solutions are unacceptable if they don’t address both. Solutions must be more than incremental. They must be transformative,” said Stephen Bonner, executive director of regulatory futures at the UK information commissioner’s office, during the event. That is a tall order.
To that end, IAB Tech Lab and its members are developing a portfolio of practical technical standards meant to help the ad industry adapt to evolving consumer expectations, regulations and related browser and OS changes. Our framework relies on a foundation of transparency, control and accountability.
Why? Because the industry must be clear about what we intend to do with user data and how we respect user controls and comply with local laws. It is the only way to garner trust with consumers and regulators.
Here are two concrete steps the Tech Lab is taking toward enabling more consistency and credibility.
Introducing the Global Privacy Platform
Let’s face it. Digital privacy is challenging. We see meaningful differences in regulations across the globe, and the definitions of consumer consent and privacy vary across regions. I don’t expect this to change soon.
I believe we are looking at greater balkanization of privacy regulations for the next several years, both in the US and globally. Therefore, we need a practical and sustainable approach to meeting the demands of local privacy laws.
The ad industry has already learned a lot from GDPR and CCPA. One of the biggest lessons is we shouldn’t keep reacting to new laws in a one-off, fragmented manner. The Transparency & Consent Framework (TCF) and US Privacy may have broad adoption, but multiply it by the number of jurisdictions with privacy laws hitting the books and you’re left with a mess of protocols and one-off solutions.
Global Privacy Platform (GPP) is a singular transmission protocol for real-time transparency and control signals from platforms, sites, apps and users. It’s not one-size-fits-all. It’s open and extensible. We’re giving the industry a technical standard and comprehensive tools to approach new jurisdictions with the ingredients required to conform to local laws and consumer expectations.
For example, GPP includes the components to privacy signals already in-market and accommodates any updates like those being designed in response to the recent Belgian DPA ruling. The result is more consistent technical controls for brands and media companies across the internet.
Strengthen the GPP With the Accountability Platform
It’s no secret the above approach faces increasing scrutiny. In the last few months, we’ve seen regulators, consumer advocates, researchers and even commercial ad tech companies publish rulings and findings that say not everyone in the ads ecosystem can be trusted to conform to privacy signals. I’m glad to see this scrutiny.
In fact, IAB’s Accountability Platform is designed to make it possible for more eyes to regularly scrutinize whether or not companies receiving privacy signals are conforming to them. We’re also developing it to expose privacy and consent signal tampering. The technical standard defines open, auditable data structures. It demonstrates who’s involved in data sharing and their conformity to the preferences and restrictions set by users and the digital properties they visit.
This is achieved through common logging practices, pairwise sender/receiver transaction information, randomization of data submission to prevent bad actors from gaming the system and avoid scrutiny and a standard interface to submit and retrieve records for analysis. It’s also worth noting that the Global Privacy Platform (GPP) and Accountability Platform complement and strengthen one another, setting the ad industry on a path toward greater privacy control and transparency.
Let’s take a portfolio 👏 approach 👏
The digital media ecosystem must be held accountable through standard technical frameworks that show who is involved in delivering digital experiences and surface erroneous or malicious noncompliant behavior. We, as an industry, cannot ask consumers, government regulators, browser and operating systems or even our partners to trust our systems if there’s no form of normalized consent signal controls and a lack of privacy compliance data exhaust for all interested parties.
Version 1 of the GPP is on track for public comment this quarter. We are targeting later this year to publish Version 1 of the Accountability Platform for public comment. We encourage the industry, governments, regulatory bodies and privacy advocates globally to work with us and comment on these proposed technical standards. Your scrutiny will only help us deliver a privacy-centric solution to digital advertising while streamlining the implementation of global privacy and accountability.