Restoring Trust in the Digital Ecosystem

Experts at JW Insights weigh in on GDPR’s informed explicit consent, brand safety, and blockchain

You have a teenage daughter. For the first time, she’s dating. Guy #1 tells you he’s taking her to see a 3D screening of The Incredibles 2, grab cherry slushies and hot dogs at 7-11, and get gas at Chevron. Guy #2 simply tells you it’s going to be dinner and a movie. In both cases, you gave the go-ahead for the guys to take her out. But which one do you trust more to date your daughter? According to expert panelists at JW Insights, under GDPR, the clear winner in this scenario would be Guy #1.

 

For consumers around the world, concern over data privacy resembles, in many ways, the concern of a worried parent. Where is my personal data going, what’s going to happen to it, and what am I really agreeing to when I let others take it?

 

Answers to these questions get clearer with informed explicit consent, a new requirement under GDPR. In this analogy, said Kelley Anderson, VP of Data Protection & Privacy at Ericsson Emodo, both guys technically got permission. But while Guy #2’s intentions are unclear—perhaps he drove the daughter off to get leftover pizza and watch Netflix in the basement at a party 50 miles way, for example—Guy #1’s date is a lot less up for interpretation. Guy #1 is more trusted because he offered a greater level of detail and transparency, providing a better opportunity for informed explicit consent.

 

Informed explicit consent requires written or spoken consent statements to be clear, specific, and free of ambiguity. According to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO):

 

“The statement should specify the nature of data that’s being collected, the details of the automated decision and its effects, or the details of the data to be transferred and the risks of the transfer.”

What does this mean for publishers? For starters, “GDPR has tightened up contracts,” said Kelley. Whereas some of these contracts could’ve been “written on napkins” in the past, “now there are changes in indemnifications and warranties and making sure consent or compliance is there. Making transparency to the user more traceable…has definitely gotten a lot better.”

 

In light of publisher fears that these new processes will come at the cost of viewership, Bill Wheaton, EVP and Chief Strategy Officer at Akamai, said, “People will give permission if you use data the right away. But is has to be explicit. It has to be informed.”

 

 “People will give permission if you use data the right away. But is has to be explicit. It has to be informed.” —Bill Wheaton, EVP and Chief Strategy Officer, Akamai

Beyond protecting consumer data, transparency is also critical for preserving brand safety. As panelist conversations turned from GDPR to the ad ecosystem, Jason DeMarco, VP of Programmatic & Audience Solutions at A+E Networks, observed that “brand safety is a two-way street for buyers and sellers.” It allows advertisers to ensure that their ads run in relevant placements, and it helps publishers build associations with premium advertisers and increase the value of their inventory.

 

Panelists praised ads.txt, a tool from IAB that lists authorized sellers of publisher inventory, via a text file integrated into servers or programmatic platforms. Advertisers can then verify whether their ads are reaching the intended audience.

 

While innovations like ads.txt are changing how the industry is thinking about accountability and transparency, others—like blockchain—still have a ways to go. Bill said, “Blockchain needs to evolve beyond cryptocurrency.” Although blockchain’s distributed ledger opens the door for greater accuracy in reporting, due to technical challenges, it hasn’t yet paved the path to solutions that are “actionable in real-time,” said Jason. In short, the promise is there, but true impact needs time.

 

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