Home Publishers Prebid Gets A Privacy Makeover With Version 8 Update

Prebid Gets A Privacy Makeover With Version 8 Update

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Call it “the ocho.”

Prebid 8 is now live.

The new version of header bidding software makes it easier to identify specific ad transactions, which could give publishers more insight into how revenue is impacted by supply-chain partners.

Prebid 8 also gives publishers more granular control over how they express forms of user consent to downstream partners, and will allow publishers to start testing Google’s Privacy Sandbox.

One of the key changes in Prebid 8 is the overhaul of transaction identifiers. Each bid request now has a unique transaction ID that remains the same no matter which bidder it passes through.

The point is to enable SPO and support sustainability efforts aimed at cracking down on auction duplication, said Patrick McCann, Raptive SVP of research and chair of Prebid.js, the group responsible for maintaining the open-source code.

But, while Prebid is giving the buy side a powerful tool to combat waste, it’s also giving the sell side the ability to turn it on or off.

Opt-in transaction IDs

In Prebid 8, publishers choose whether to share the bid’s transaction ID, which is turned off by default.

“The Prebid legal counsel on the publisher committee wanted to make sure that publishers were making this choice knowingly,” McCann said. That choice is open for publishers to avoid a situation where, “all of a sudden, people have insights into our inventory that they didn’t know before,” he added.

For instance, publishers might opt out of providing the transaction ID for bid requests enriched with sensitive user data, McCann said, especially if that data is commingled with a deterministic identifier like an email address.

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Some publishers also want to avoid DSPs’ efforts to crack down on auction duplication and bid jamming, McCann said.

While DSPs are trying to avoid duplicate bid requests to cut wasteful spending and carbon emissions, publishers are still incentivized to increase bid density by duplicating auctions, thus driving up CPMs. It ain’t pretty but it works.

However, Prebid’s decision to make transaction IDs opt-in for publishers could perpetuate a marketplace with billions of duplicated ad requests.

And Prebid also lacks features to prevent unintentional duplications, like those that occur when ID graphs are applied multiple times across multiple wrappers for different ad formats or demand sources, said Mike O’Sullivan, co-founder of Sincera, a startup that supplies media telemetry data to the ad tech ecosystem, including the rate at which publishers adopt tech like Prebid and alternative IDs.

Transaction ID standardization

When publishers do opt to provide transaction IDs for bid requests, the identifiers can be a powerful attribution signal.

And with Prebid 8, the transaction ID will be standardized across all bidders. That’s in contrast to previous Prebid versions, in which different SSPs could send different IDs for the same auction, making it harder to trace a transaction back to its source.

With Prebid 8, if a DSP sees 50 bid requests with the same transaction ID, it knows which auctions and which publisher the ID is associated with. This will help buyers determine which paths to the inventory were most efficient.

Publishers can also more reliably use standardized transaction IDs to evaluate their tech partners’ take rates, McCann said. They can pull the transaction ID from their own logs and match it against DSP or advertiser logs to check whether intermediaries between the buyer and seller are taking a bigger cut of ad revenue than they’re supposed to.

Down with GPP

As another publisher carrot, Prebid 8 offers ways to prevent vendor data-sharing activities that could run afoul of privacy regulations.

Prebid’s activity controls are compatible with the IAB Tech Lab’s Global Privacy Platform (GPP), which is used by publishers to convey whether a user has opted out of sharing certain data.

“If I have a US privacy string signal for a user in California with a ‘do not sell’ signal, then no one should be setting cookies on this user,” said Sincera co-founder Ian Meyers. In that case, the publisher could set an activity control to prevent cookies from being used.

Activity controls were introduced in Prebid 7.52, which dropped a few weeks ago. The updated controls center around regulatory compliance for the patchwork of international and US state privacy laws.

Prior to Prebid 8, publishers could only apply the consent string for US privacy compliance across all their bid requests, McCann said. Now they can prevent user syncing or decide which data enrichment or analytics modules are applied to individual page views.

Prebid will continue rolling out new activity controls and modules for privacy compliance. The US national module should be released by July 1, McCann said, followed by a module for Canada soon after. These will join Prebid’s already existing GDPR compliance module, with another update for the new GPP 1.1 once that goes into effect.

Publishers still need to consult their lawyers to decide which data-sharing activities they need to prevent and when, McCann said, but the modules represent Prebid’s attempts to set defaults.

Digging into the sandbox

Adopting Prebid 8 is also a way for publishers to test Google’s Privacy Sandbox before it goes fully into effect next year (assuming Google holds to its deadline).

Although most Sandbox functionality was added during the last few updates for Prebid 7, about 30,000 publishers have yet to install any iteration of version 7, according to Sincera. And there are tens of thousands that aren’t running version 7.46 or higher, which includes Privacy Sandbox features.

The rate of adoption of various Prebid versions by publishers. Courtesy of Sincera.

Jumping to version 8 will provide the most up-to-date testing tools, including modules for the Protected Audiences API (formerly known as FLEDGE) and Topics API.

Publishers can submit a Privacy Sandbox auction configuration through Prebid Server, OpenX or RTB House to their Protected Audience API. From there, Google Ad Manager will run an auction pitting Google Adx against Prebid’s bidders.

But making Privacy Sandbox and Protected Audiences work for the industry is going to be an ongoing challenge, McCann said, alongside making Prebid more modular. To improve page load times for version 8, ad pod features and size mapping were moved to dedicated modules that can be activated as needed.

Adding loss notifications, which give losing bidders information about the winning bid, is also on the roadmap. “Prebid is at a disadvantage by not providing loss notifications because they’re valuable to train bidding algorithms,” McCann said. “So that’s something we’re working on.”

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