Last week Bob Bahramipour and I spent a few days in Deer Valley at the Digiday Digital Publishing Summit. It was a good crowd of publishers, advertising networks, service providers, and advertisers.
Privacy was a pervasive theme in the conference and a number of presenters addressed data collection and targeting activities and discussed how to meet advertising best privacy practices. Each day TRUSTe hosted privacy roundtable discussions, which gave us a good opportunity to understand how publishers think about self-regulation, legislation, and their privacy programs. Some takeaways:
1. Publishing and advertising industry attitudes around privacy are evolving
It is no longer about avoiding privacy self-regulation (by arguing that data is all anonymous, for instance) – I now see a growing acceptance that privacy is an important business and consumer issue for online advertisers. Some have even started to embrace privacy as a competitive differentiator and incorporate it into their brand building efforts. At our closing panel, we spoke about how privacy can be a brand asset.
2. By and large publishers support the self-regulatory efforts for online behavioral advertising (OBA), including the Digital Advertising Alliance program
That said, confusion remains. What exactly do publishers have to do?* Can they rely on ad networks and advertisers to self-regulate on their behalf? TRUSTe’s POV is that publishers have an especially strong incentive to self-regulate since they have a primary relationship with consumers and therefore likely to be one of the parties held responsible by consumers and regulators if something goes wrong.
3. Most publishers recognize that OBA opt-out choices are not likely to break advertising, but there is still concern over “Do Not Track” initiatives
Only a small number of publishers indicated that they are “hanging back” waiting for regulatory or legislative action, perhaps hoping the issue dies down. The roundtable participants suggested that if the industry – publishers and advertisers alike – don’t get on board with self-regulatory initiatives then the likelihood of overreaching legislation is that much higher. There was voiced concern, though, about the potential negative impact that emerging Do Not Track tools and initiatives could have on advertising business models.
4. Industry should do more to educate
Strong arguments were made by many that the industry needs to enhance consumer education on the value of relevant advertising and tracking. How can the entire advertising publisher ecosystem better demonstrate its value to consumers?
On the last day of the conference, the news of the FTC privacy consent order against Google generated “buzz”, especially the 20 year audit period. The FTC order reinforces privacy as a critical issue, the importance of consumer notice, and of honoring consumer choice. Another buzz issue was the relatively small number of women in the audience – probably an 1 to 8 ratio – which was kind of fun for me and certainly was a factor in my win of the Digiday ski race (Women’s Division) at Deer Valley.
*As a refresher publisher OBA requirements under the Digital Advertising Alliance self-regulatory program include providing an enhanced notice link on your website where OBA activities occur that directs consumers to disclosures about the tracking activity and opt-out mechanisms. The DAA requirements also obligate publishers to obtain consumer consent before making any material changes to their OBA data collection or use policies and practices.