Home Data-Driven Thinking Why The Government And Digital Ad Companies Must Come Together

Why The Government And Digital Ad Companies Must Come Together

Leigh Freund, president & CEO, NAI

When it comes to policies that impact how ads are delivered online, change is in the air.

Multiple state consumer privacy laws are now in effect. Congress is considering major privacy legislation. The Federal Trade Commission has embarked on sweeping privacy and data protection rulemaking.

And President Biden recently called on both political parties to “unite against Big Tech abuses.”

But change – even change that restricts data collection or use – doesn’t have to be a negative for digital advertisers and the millions of small businesses that rely on tailored advertising to reach audiences interested in their services. 

Working together to create change

Leading policymakers and responsible members of the advertising industry are aligned on key goals. Our shared vision includes giving people meaningful control over their personal data, placing enhanced restrictions on the use of sensitive precise location and health-care data and banning targeted advertising to children. 

We also believe that data-driven advertising can and should drive free and low-cost digital media for consumers and help small businesses reach niche or local audiences and compete with larger corporations.

To make that vision a lasting reality, advertising industry stakeholders should partner with legislators and regulators to develop and implement smart, practical laws and regulations. There should be a role for responsible organizations in the ad tech space to share information about new technology and business practices, and to help disseminate and interpret rules of the road developed by government agencies. 

Unfortunately, the discourse between industry and policymakers has devolved into name-calling. That isn’t productive, whether it’s using a misnomer like “surveillance” to describe tools to deliver tailored ads or labeling people with different policy approaches “extremists.” 

Since 2000, NAI members have pledged to follow specific best practices for data collection and use. As federal and state privacy rules evolve, we are committed to helping our members best understand and comply with them. 

Ideally, we will do this in partnership with federal and state regulators. As technology and business practices rapidly evolve, guidance from industry associations, developed with input from government officials, will have an impact much faster than regulation or legislation alone.


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We’ve been advocating for new privacy rules that maximize competition across the digital advertising ecosystem by focusing more precisely on the harmful uses of data, and the implementation of data stewardship requirements across all of industry, rather than seeking broad limitations on data sharing with service providers and third parties for advertising and marketing. Focusing only on data sharing unfairly empowers the largest platforms.

Of course, addressing consumer privacy won’t solve every problem related to how we interact with technology and each other online. Proposed privacy laws and rules won’t necessarily address free speech issues, how algorithms drive the delivery of content via social media or concerns about the concentration of political or economic power in a few gatekeeper companies. 

In fact, recently enacted state privacy laws – and most proposed laws – will greatly favor large platforms by protecting companies that both collect and use consumer data, rather than sharing it with other companies. 

A call for unity on privacy

 We’re proud of our history of working collaboratively with policymakers at all levels, and leading companies that care about respecting privacy and delivering relevant advertising to empower the data-driven economy, without sacrificing individual autonomy. And we’re reaching out our hand to policymakers and regulators to build consensus around solutions that promote the productive role advertising can play for people, small businesses, the economy and society. 

Collaboration between industry and government is the only way forward.

Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

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For more articles featuring Leigh Freund, click here.

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