Why The IAB Tech Lab Still Hasn’t Taken On The Administrator Role For Unified ID 2.0

The IAB Tech Lab is still on the fence as to whether it should take on the administrator role for Unified ID 2.0.

Nothing in ad tech is ever easy.

Despite previously signaling interest in serving as an administrator for Unified ID 2.0 earlier this year, the IAB Tech Lab is still on the fence about taking on this role for the open-source initiative to replace third-party cookies with email-based IDs.

During a Tech Lab board meeting last Thursday, a vote on the matter was tabled for further discussion.

“Tech Lab assuming the administrator role for Unified ID 2.0 is being actively explored, but no decision has been made,” a spokesperson told AdExchanger. “We will provide an update when we have something to share with the industry.”

So, what’s the holdup?

One issue has to do with the fact that the Tech Lab doesn’t feel comfortable taking on the role of admin as currently defined in The Trade Desk’s technical specs for Unified ID 2.0, according to someone with knowledge of the matter who asked to remain anonymous.

The administrator’s main job is to be in charge of a centralized database of sorts and manage access to the UID2 partner ecosystem. That means distributing encryption keys to UID2 operators, distributing decryption keys to compliant members, sending UID2 opt-out requests to operators and DSPs and auditing participants for compliance. The administrator must also shut off bad actors that abuse the ID.

It’s that last bit the IAB Tech Lab board isn’t comfortable with, as in pulling the plug if a partner violates UID2’s code of conduct.

The Trade Desk, however, is pushing for an industry entity to take on the responsibility of controlling the kill switch for UID2.

Hence, the impasse.

Back in February, though, the IAB Tech Lab seemed close to sealing the deal. In a blog post, Jordan Mitchell, then the IAB Tech Lab’s SVP of privacy, identity and data (he left in April), noted that the Tech Lab is well suited to the serve the technical role of UID2 admin and manage the open-source software powering UID2 in collaboration with other industry players.

But the devil clearly lives in the details on this one.

Beyond the current structure of the role, the Tech Lab is also concerned about policing the use of UID2 in countries with strict privacy laws, like the General Data Protection Regulation in Europe.

If the IAB Tech Lab does eventually take on a modified version of the admin role, Europe and potentially other countries, such as Brazil and India, will likely be carved out, at least to start.

GDPR violations carry a hefty fine and no one wants to be the one left holding a bag full of potential liability.

But all that said, the IAB Tech Lab board appears willing to move forward as an admin as long as it’s not on the hook for shutting down the baddies.

And although the admin role is still TBD, the Tech Lab has already taken on a few other functions related to the initiative, including hosting the open source code repositories for UID2 on GitHub.

The next step will be to set up a follow-up board meeting dedicated to the topic of UID2, likely for sometime in the new year. This meeting will include a vote.

One of the reasons a vote didn’t happen at the board meeting last week is because the UID2 item appeared rather far down on a long agenda and by the time it was addressed a lot of members had already left.

The IAB Tech Lab’s board, chaired by Neal Richter, Amazon DSP’s director of advertising science, is made up of nearly 40 product and business leaders across a broad range of advertising and media companies, including Google, CafeMedia, Facebook, TikTok, LiveRamp, News Corp, ViacomCBS, Criteo, The Trade Desk, PubMatic and Neustar.

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