How the Online Ecosystem Needs to Rebalance the Scales of User Data Control

Posted on: Monday 28 September 2020 | Shruthi Chindalur - Executive Managing Director, EMEA, Criteo

Criteo’s Shruthi Chindalur looks at how a new user ID solution can walk the line between privacy and effectiveness

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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. As with their physical privacy, web users are rightfully expecting the same level of control over their online privacy.

Whilst the subject of 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.

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, with declining rates of trust in advertising and growing user awareness of how data is used to target people online, there is clearly a shift happening – evidenced by the depreciation of third-party cookies.

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 pseudonomyised identifiers, they were not designed to favour the user.

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.

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, and that people feel safe in the knowledge that their rights are respected and protected.

Total transparency is key to this and for people to understand what they should opt into, and why. In 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.

Customer Driven
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 are in this together and, with the guiding principles adhered to, we can ensure a voice and solution for all.

We must also 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.

Written by

Shruthi Chindalur

Executive Managing Director, EMEA, Criteo

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