Our government looks set to legislate a Personal Data Protection Bill (DPB), which would control the collection, processing, storage, usage, transfer, protection, and disclosure of personal data of Indian residents. Our digital footprints have become more like marathon tracks, with users understanding much more about their online profiles and demanding more control over how their data is stored and used. With their physical privacy, web users are rightfully expecting the same level of control over their online privacy.
Whilst the subject of online privacy across the internet, and how to manage it, has been around for some time, the future of one-to-one digital advertising is now a critical issue that needs to be addressed and resolved. Online ecosystem needs to rebalance the scales of user data control.
According to a recent commissioned study by Criteo, which surveyed 5,000 people, 70% of respondents strongly agree or agree that they’re happy to have advertising in return for free content. But 69% of those surveyed cite “personalised advertising infringes my data privacy (uses information I don’t want to share)” in their top three dislikes and concerns about personalised advertising.
Historically, the online ecosystem between web users, advertisers and publishers has worked with each party coming to the table with different views, wants and needs; and a value exchange happening between them all. People enjoy free online content in return for advertisers sending them targeted ads, thus allowing publishers to monetise their pages.
However, times have changed and what worked once is no longer benefiting the needs of web users who have lost trust in the ecosystem and aren’t confident their data will be stored and used respectfully. This has been compounded by a steady stream of data breaches, cyberattacks and the infamous Cambridge Analytica scandal that harvested millions of Facebook users’ personal data without consent.
In the midst of all this one thing has become clear – cookies and mobile ad IDs are no longer adequate tools to address users with personalised messages. Whilst third party cookies worked as pseudonymised identifiers, they were not designed to favour the user.
So, how can we within the industry create an honest and fair value exchange that truly rebalances the scales for web users? We have identified four guiding principles we believe will benefit the full ecosystem and are integral to a healthy future for the internet.
In the offline world consumer rights and privacy are paramount. It is fundamental that this is reflected online, where people feel safe in the knowledge that their rights are respected and protected.
Total transparency is key for people to understand what they should opt into, and why. In true essence, people need to be able to build and manage their online data profile just as they are responsible for the information they share in their day-to-day lives.
To achieve this, we need to re-write the rule book and create a brand new identifier for online advertising that gives total control back to the user based on consent and privacy; consent to have their data collected and the privacy of an encrypted ID that does not store or link data – all with the ability to change or adapt preferences at any given time. When it comes to the safe storage of user data, a centralised management system needs to be in place that is managed by an independent, non-browser entity.
For any solution to work and have longevity it needs to have input from, and suit, all internet parties including publishers, advertisers and ad-tech players.
Advertisers will still need to be able to measure their campaign journeys effectively, publishers will still require revenue-making abilities and ad-tech players will need access to data to fuel the two. Therefore, it’s imperative that each have a seat at the table and have our individual voices heard and recognised in the collective result.
For true change to occur, it needs to come from a place of openness and honesty and have the full participation of the whole ecosystem. No change has ever occurred in silo; a collaborative effort will result in a proposal that fits all. This is not a quick fix and won’t happen overnight, so the sooner we address the issues of online identification, the sooner we can start the journey to improving the experience.
Any solution needs to be built with flexibility in mind so we can adjust it to any changes that may arise from feedback given by the industry or other market entities. We must move away from the past where individual players built their own solutions and worked in isolation and adopt an open and collaborative approach.
It is abundantly clear that change must be made, and conversations need to begin now. We must strike the right balance between regaining trust the industry has lost by giving transparency and control back to users and keeping up an agreed value exchange between all parties.
As we look to build a better internet, it is our hope that these guiding principles are agreed upon and adopted by web users, publishers and advertisers alike.
We call upon the whole ecosystem to join us with an open mind and share your voice; together we can exact the change needed to rebalance the scales of online identity.
Authored by: Taranjeet Singh, Managing Director, SEA and India, Criteo.