Event summary: Addressing the ICO Adtech Update Report

Find out what was said when the ICO’s Simon McDougall joined IAB UK and our members to discuss concerns about adtech and real-time bidding (RTB)

by IAB UK

With the ICO’s six-month deadline for response to its Adtech Update Report approaching, we at IAB UK brought together the regulator’s Simon McDougall and our members to provide an industry update on potential solutions and allow attendees to raise questions.

Opening the event, IAB UK’s Chief Digital Officer Tim Elkington highlighted how IAB UK, IAB Europe and IAB Tech Lab are closely engaged with the ICO to build a constructive industry solution to address concerns about adtech and real-time bidding (RTB). While this initially consisted of a process of dialogue and information gathering on both sides, we’re “now moving into the second phase and making proposals about the best way forward.”

Simon McDougall, the ICO’s Technology Policy and Innovation Director, then provided an insight into the body’s stance on current RTB processes. Making clear that the “concerns are the same as when we did the report”, McDougall also emphasised how happy the ICO are with industry engagement so far.

He underlined that the ICO is not anti-advertising and acknowledged the benefits of RTB, but added that “we want things to be done in a way that is proportionate and in keeping with GDPR”. As outlined in the report, particular areas of concern are focused on data security and special category data.

Moving forward, McDougall said that the ICO will continue to work with the industry via the IAB and that the collective aim is for the whole industry to proactively move towards a new standard of common practice, rather than the ICO effecting piecemeal change through formal enforcement action against individual firms.

Further detail on what a potential IAB-led response could look like was provided by IAB UK’s Head of Policy and Regulatory Affairs Christie Dennehy-Neil. She described IAB Europe’s Transparency and Consent Framework v2.0 (TCF) as having “a critical role to play” as part of the solution. Areas being explored that could provide industry responses or solutions to the ICO’s concerns include:

  • Extensions of TCF v2.0 policies and/or adopting best practice recommendations to better align to policy guidance or GDPR provisions that the TCF does not directly implement yet

  • Future TCF functionality and/or policies – whether obligatory, or for voluntary adoption on an interim basis (only if agreed through TCF governance processes)

  • Protocol-based solutions + associated policies e.g. to minimise the risk of unlawful processing of special category data

  • Guidance on the application of IAB Tech Lab-owned global protocols and taxonomies in the EEA in a GDPR-compliant way

  • Potential changes to Tech Lab-owned global protocols and taxonomies (only if agreed through Tech Lab governance processes)

  • Industry education, via guidance and good practices, on meeting the requirements of GDPR and ePD/implementing legislation, reflecting existing TCF functionality, policies and T&Cs

While the emphasis is on maintaining consistency of approach at an EU level where possible, Dennehy-Neil said that the UK might have to lead on agreeing good practices in some areas, in order to meet the UK regulator’s timeline.

Following this, McDougall and IAB UK’s CEO Jon Mew joined Dennehy-Neil on stage to discuss potential outcomes and answer questions from the audience. This included discrediting rumours that the ICO and IAB UK have already struck a deal behind the scenes.

McDougall described himself as “very optimistic that we can make real progress” and said that the aim is to continue working with the IAB to create industry-wide understanding of “what good looks like” when it comes to RTB practices.

The event ended with closing thoughts from each speaker. Highlighting the value of the ICO’s dialogue with the IAB, McDougall encouraged members to remain part of the conversation, review current data practices and keep abreast of developments.

Both Mew and Dennehy-Neil also emphasised the need for continued communication and encouraged members to get in contact via ico@iabuk.com. As Dennehy-Neil said: “We don’t have a silver bullet and there is no one simple answer to this. We’re going to need collaboration.”

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