We live in the age of data. In today’s digital world, almost everything we do creates and consumes data. As science has taught us, more data leads to smarter decisions, which in turn have the possibility to dramatically improve our lives and planet. This is the promise of the “Data Revolution”. As with any new epoch, over time almost every aspect of life will be transformed in some way.
But the uncertainty and change that occasions a new era can be unsettling, especially for those who feel displaced. In the Industrial Revolution, for example, the craft workers displaced by industrialization (known as “Luddites”) sabotaged the new machines that took their jobs. And today, the Luddites are back and they’re scared by the Data Revolution. Indeed, we’ve seen a recent raft of histrionic articles on the collection and use of Internet browser data to target advertising.
As experts in the field of data-driven decisioning, we’d like to offer a simple and clear-headed perspective on best practices for advertisers in the Data Revolution.
Data can be used responsibly to deliver a rich and relevant web experience, which can increase the efficiency of campaigns for advertisers and the value consumers can derive from it. While data is a powerful force for good, it can be misused like any other tool. That’s why we at DataXu limit data usage to non-personal information, and give consumers notice and choice about the collection and use of such information. Simple enough, but let’s dig into some of the loopholes used by unscrupulous advertisers.
First, less reputable online advertisers have at their disposal a host of invasive tracking methods that undermine notice and choice. Specifically, Flash cookies, Silverlight cookies, and HTML5 databases can be used to undermine a consumer’s decision to opt out of data collection through a persistent hidden identifier. This practice threatens the Data Revolution because it is a deceptive business practice. We do not participate in or support any of these methods of browser tracking.
Second, in addition to contractual safeguards enforcing our data policies, we routinely audit our data to ensure compliance with our policies. Specifically, on an ongoing basis we review data in our system and, if necessary, re mediate it to ensure that information in contravention of our policies is not unknowingly transmitted to us.
Finally, we play an active role in shaping best practices for the Data Revolution as members of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (“IAB”) public policy committee and Network Advertising Initiative (“NAI”.) We applaud the IAB’s recent launch of a comprehensive Self-Regulatory Program for Online Behavioral Advertising that will help protect consumers’ privacy rights and empower consumers to manage their own data. DataXu is actively participating in the ongoing educational series to help vendors understand the requirements for compliance in the program and we call on others in the industry to take part as well.
Willard (Bill) Simmons, Chief Technology Officer