When used right, consumer data and online identity fuel seamless customer experiences. But when solutions fall short, they can leave sensitive personal information at risk. Are new identity capabilities — such as clean rooms, first-party data and alternative IDs — ethical, or do they replace one intrusive practice with another?
At Campaign US’ recent Tech Talks: Identity event, editor Alison Weissbrot led a discussion between Talia Comorau, senior director of product management at Magnite; Stephanie Gaynor, group director of customer strategy at Mindshare; and Mathieu Roche, cofounder and CEO at ID5.io, about whether it’s possible to truly preserve privacy in identity solutions and what safeguards must be considered to prevent new solutions from causing issues.
The current state of online privacy
Roche kicked off the discussion by explaining why the use of data has become a problem for consumers. With regulatory changes and platform restrictions on data collection, “we're at the stage where we need to redefine the ecosystem to allow the use of data for advertising purposes respectfully of consumers, because this will ensure the internet remains free and accessible to everyone,” he explained.
Comorau cited personalized recommendations on Netflix and Spotify as evidence of the coexistence of identity and privacy. In the ad tech ecosystem, “buyers have a responsibility to do a better job of educating consumers about some of the tradeoffs with privacy and data, but also including some of the personalization services that consumers are comfortable with,” she added. “Those kinds of relationships and conversations with consumers open the door for transparent advertising.”
To Gaynor, transparency and trust are key when handling first-party data. One way to build that is through education, which has primarily come from external sources such as The Social Dilemma on Netflix and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’s “data brokers” segment. Companies have “a responsibility to say this is what we're going to do with your first-party data, your email address, your phone number,” she said. “When that transparency is there, we will start to feel better about that privacy being preserved.”
Using data ethically
Similar to how consumers trust airlines, “a regulatory framework would help consumers trust that publishers will treat data responsibly,” Roche said.
The problem is, “there is a lot that we can do with data that is potentially unethical but legal,” Gaynor added. “As an industry we need to make sure everyone is doing the right thing and then we can be treated like the airlines.”
Basically, “we're still in the trust earning stage of our relationship,” Comorau emphasized.
Gaynor explained that Mindshare launched a data ethics tool to create a more consistent approach. In addition to checking the governance and quality of the data, the company also scrutinizes its ethical application. “What we found is that it is subjective and also situational, depending on the industry, the vertical, the type of data, the use case,” she said.
For example, ID5 “helps brands and their agencies use data at a greater scale by having a better way to recognize users,” Roche said. This approach “helps take the industry one step further in terms of data protection and best practices and raising the level of acceptance of advertising.” Magnite, Comorau said, has taken a tapestry approach by supporting “existing standards and capabilities, universal IDs or extended IDs, privacy sandbox conversations and building industry-leading privacy first solutions.”
At Mindshare, the focus is on “identifying the audiences that are going to have the most impact on business growth and then designing a data strategy to support that,” said Gaynor. “As advertisers, we need to start to think about solutions as situational.” As an example, she explained how an airline request to link to her ride share account to earn mileage has an obvious consumer value, while an auto provider sending information about family-friendly cars based on her health data feels intrusive.
Implications for measurement and attribution
Targeting “enables brands to restrict their spend and focus on their core customer or prospect base,” Roche said. However, other applications of identity, such as frequency capping and measurement, are also very important for brands and consumers. “There are a lot of things that we can do better, but for that we need to know that this particular device has already been exposed to that ad three times,” he explained, adding that without measurement capabilities, the industry will “miss a big part of what makes digital advertising valuable for brands.”
The good news is, “consumers are a lot more likely to actively opt in to frequency capping than they are to actively opt into targeting,” Comorau said. However, measurement consent will require more transparency around “how it is done, when and what the goals are.”
“We need an infrastructure that allows buyers and sellers to interact with each other on their own terms, with their own kind of data segmentation strategy with their own measurement strategies, not something that's dictated by Google or Apple,” concluded Roche. “The more we can prove that there are alternatives to using cookies or the privacy sandbox, the more chances we will give to publishers and brands to own their future.”