Across the tech sector, there’s widespread consensus that a trust deficit threatens to undermine the current business model of quality, ad-supported content. This mistrust exists between data subjects, data controllers, and data processors (to use GDPR parlance). Users don’t trust that the sites they visit are behaving responsibly with their data. In turn, those sites can’t be sure that the infrastructure which allows them to monetize are doing the same.
A Pain Point / An Opportunity
A recent AdWeek interview with Chetna Bindra, Google Senior Product Manager for User Trust, Privacy, and Transparency, gives fresh insight into how one of the world’s biggest data brokers sees the future of privacy. Bindra’s interview is chock-full of interesting nuggets. To her, data privacy is the most significant pain point. It’s also her biggest opportunity for tech companies in the coming years. She says: “We need to find a way for users to continue to access ad-supported content on the web while also feeling confident their privacy is protected… If transparency is a pain point, it’s also an opportunity.”
The point Bindra makes is a crucial concern for us here at Ethyca as well. We believe that previous lax standards around data privacy were a bug, not a feature of the internet era. Now that legislation like the GDPR and CCPA are coming into effect, companies are compelled to focus on operating at a higher standard of transparency around data management, and ultimately –though it may be a short-term challenge to implement. We believe that’s a win for everybody.
Bindra lays out of a vision of how an online ecosystem should work when she says: “Users need to feel like they’re getting value [in exchange for their data] and advertisers need to be able to reach people interested in what they have to offer.”
From Outdated Process to High Standards
This point is an argument I make to data regulation skeptics frequently. The fact remains – current ad targeting practices, mainly as large corporations and SMEs increasingly rely on programmatic buys, isn’t anywhere near the platonic ideal of “reaching the motivated consumer when they are likely to purchase.” Moreover, one of the main reasons for that is that a non-regulated data ecosystem that allows for the buying and selling of second- and third-party data sets without users’ affirmative consent is never going to yield as precise targeting models as well-curated, owned, responsibly managed consumer data. The old programming adage GIGO – “Garbage In Garbage Out” – springs to mind.
So, Bindra isn’t utopian. When she speaks this way about the future state of online data privacy, she’s talking about the impact on advertising. The world she describes should be a natural consequence of companies moving from outdated processes of data management. A world where companies are running to the highest globally compliant standard. There’s no need for SMEs feeling intimidated by this prospect. It should be clear that in the long run, better data practice will be good for business.