🌯 Ad Tech Giants Get Slaps on Wrists

AdMonsters Wrapper: The weekly ad tech news wrap up
This Week
June 1, 2022
Apple Is Meta's Worst Nightmare
U.K. Watchdogs Ready To Regulate Google
Twitter Knowingly Sold Protected Data
Meta Despises Apple’s Domination of Mobile App Ecosystem
Apple ATT this, Apple ATT that. If one thing is certain, Meta has had enough of Apple, and they made that very clear in a memo sent to U.S regulators last week.

This was not a four-page letter like the one Aaliyah wrote, it was 19, and in the memo, Meta took a deep dive when responding to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). In April, the administration requested opinions from tech companies about competition in the mobile app ecosystem and Meta didn't shy away from wearing its heart on its sleeve.

Meta is big mad, and according to them, though Apple claims that ATT's purpose is to preserve privacy, the reality is that it is only helping the house that Steve Jobs built to enhance their advertising business.

Apple, of course, weighed in to give their two cents.

In a statement, an Apple spokesperson said that "Apple believes in vibrant and competitive markets, and through the App Store, we've helped millions of developers around the world turn their brightest ideas into apps that change the world. Today, third-party apps, including Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, are among the most popular apps on the App Store. We have every interest in supporting a robust developer community."
Why This Matters
Apple ATT restrictions are not only detrimental for the likes of Meta; many smaller app developers are feeling it too, especially those that rely on advertising. Numbers are on the decline.

Once ATT came into play, Apple's two-year-old SKAdNetwork — a tool for measuring attribution of mobile app campaigns — suddenly became important. According to Meta, this tool limits businesses' access to data in a big way, but companies need better access to data to continue making revenue in the Apple App Store. So this is all becoming one big hot mess for mobile app pubs and advertisers to continue to figure out. If you remember, Meta is one of the biggest losers to Apple ATT.

It's unclear what the NTIA will make of all this, but only time will tell.
Google Upsets Yet Another Ad Tech Watch Dog
Man, it really seems like Google likes living on thin ice these days, and this is probably how it will be for the new future. Google's hands are in way too many cookie jars, and governments around the world are cracking down.

The Competition and Marketer's Authority (CMA), is a U.K. competition watchdog that just announced another investigation into Google's potential antitrust abuses around ad tech.

The CMA has turned its magnifying glass on to Google on two occasions previously:
  • To investigate 'Jedi Blue,' a discrete deal between Google and Facebook that allowed Facebook to win a fixed percentage of advertising bids on Google’s platform in exchange for FB staying clear of Big G's ad display dominance
  • To open a probe of Google's Privacy Sandbox last year after receiving numerous complaints of its planned execution of tracking cookies to migrate to another stack of ad targeting technologies.
The regulator argues that distorted competition exists as Google owns the largest service provider in three main aspects.
Why This Matters

The three parts of the chain that we are referring to are DSPs, ad exchanges, and publisher ad services. Google is like that one player in Monopoly who owns property on 80% of the board. How will other pubs and advertisers grow with Google bogarting everything like this?

The CMA is also investigating whether Google tweaked its ad exchange with third-party pub ad services and contractually bound them. This would make it harder for other pubs and advertisers to compete, and Google has only been getting away with it for so long because nearly everyone in the ad tech ecosystem relies on them, but it seems like watchdogs are finally beginning to wake up and smell the coffee.

Twitter in Deep Doo Doo For Knowingly Using Account Security Data to Sell Ads
Twitter messed up big time, and the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice are also ordering the social platform to cough up $150 Million in penalties for violating a 2011 FTC Order, which prohibits Twitter from being shady about their privacy and security practices.

Twitter deceived many of its users by using their account security data for targeted advertising, even though they claimed they only needed to capture phone numbers and email addresses to protect user identity. According to the FTC, this affected over 140 million Twitter users.

"Consumers who share their private information have a right to know if that information is being used to help advertisers target customers," said U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds for the Northern District of California. "Social media companies that are not honest with consumers about how their personal information is being used will be held accountable."
Why This Matters
Is it just us, or are these tech giants just boldly making these costly mistakes?

We all know that Twitter generates most of its income from advertising, and clearly, they make out well, so these shady practices are just giving greed. Twitter didn't simply "forget" to tell people they were selling their data, they intentionally left out that information, probably thinking there wasn't a chance in hell they'd get caught.

In addition to the $150 million penalties, here are some other stipulations of the proposed order:
  • prohibit Twitter from profiting from deceptively collected data;
  • allow users to use other multi-factor authentication methods such as mobile authentication apps or security keys that do not require users to provide their telephone numbers;
  • notify users that it misused phone numbers and email addresses collected for account security to also target ads to them and provide information about Twitter’s privacy and security controls;
  • implement and maintain a comprehensive privacy and information security program that requires the company, among other things, to examine and address the potential privacy and security risks of new products;
  • limit employee access to users’ personal data; and
  • notify the FTC if the company experiences a data breach.
Around The Water Cooler
Here’s what else we’re reading and talking about…

Update on Google Privacy Sandbox Origin Trials
We noticed some of our AdMonsters friends on Twitter talking about the good and bad of the latest Privacy Sandbox Origin Trials, especially after there was a bug in Topics API that made the product temporarily inoperable. Aram Zucker-Scharff, Engineering Lead for Privacy & Security Compliance, WaPo, noted that while Topics API is an improvement over FLOC, there’s “…conflict over if it works and exactly who it advantages. The 1 new topic/week specified in Google's blog post seems not useful for 1 domain pubs,” he said. Meanwhile, Simon J. Harris, Director of Trade Desk, DPG Media, said, “Some are saying the classification looks off, it's likely not perfect this early on, but looks ok.”

DuckDuckGo’s Privacy Reputation Under Fire
The DuckDuckGo search engine that promises not to track users searchers or behaviors was caught allowing Microsoft to track users as part of a syndication agreement the two companies had. The alleged breach, was initially uncovered by privacy and secutiry researcher, Zach Edwards, who also pointed out that the company’s CEO was responding to the issue on Reddit instead of posting a proper blog post on their website. The CEO response was that, “...we actually restrict Microsoft scripts in our browsers, including blocking their 3rd party cookies.” IAB Tech Lab Senior Advisor, Privacy & Data Protection, Alex Cone, has a warning, “Let this be a warning to anyone going to market with privacy as a value driver / differentiator. Being overly self-righteous may come back to bite you.”

Epic Vows to Battle Big Tech to Keep the Metaverse Open
Epic is taking on big tech one platform at a time. If you remember Epic led the charge against Apple that resulted in Apple easing restrictions on developers. Now it looks like Epic chief executive Tim Sweeney is ready to take on both Apple and Google to stop them from dominaing physical commerce within VR and AR.

Sparrow One Says Ad Tech Made Major Missteps Leading to Walled Garden’s Dominance
One of the major issues that Sparrow One points out was ad tech’s failure to articulate the value that advertising provides to consumers. And the second thing that ad tech got wrong is the user experience. Both missteps have led consumers to detest advertising. The post does highlight some bright spots and we’d say it’s a worthy read.

Cannes Is Really Back and Amazon Is Going Big
Historically, Amazon’s presence at Cannes has been very lowkey, but this year they plan to go big renting out an entire port. In conjunction with the growth of the company’s ad business, they’ve been seen spending more dollars and upping their presence at trade shows all while taking on Gooogle and Facebook. This big energy from Amazon just shows how back in biz Cannes Lions is.
Sweet Tweet
The Original Sin of Digital Advertising
The original sin of online advertising was turning "I want to show an ad to your visitors" into "I get arbitrary code execution on your site". - @Log3overLog2
Worth a Listen
Is Conde Nast Still Just a Magazine Company?
Home to brands like Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and Bon Appétit, Condé Nast might as well be French for “magazine.” The company’s C.E.O. however sees a “difficult future” for print and is trying to pivot Condé Nast publications toward creating more digital content — even going so far as to say that Condé Nast is “no longer a magazine company.”

In this interview with Kara Swisher, Roger Lynch explains why and how the company has changed.
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