IAB Public Policy and Legal Summit: The State of Privacy

The state of privacy in the U.S. is tumultuous. 

The lack of federal privacy laws leaves publishers and consumers needing guidance on how to abide by and protect themselves under regulations. While state privacy laws are in effect and on the way, the ad tech ecosystem in America is eager for federal compliance laws that balance the need for effective advertising and data ethics. 

During his State of the Union Address, President Biden reiterated his stance on implementing federal privacy regulations. The ad tech community supported the sentiment overall but criticized the federal government’s attempt to implement rules that broadly restrict advertising. 

 “Through good-faith collaboration, we can codify important data protections for consumers while protecting valuable ad-supported content and services,” said Bob Liodice, CEO of the Association of National Advertisers. “Our common goal should be to stop unreasonable and unexpected data practices while allowing beneficial practices that drive innovation, growth, and consumer benefit.”

At IAB’s Public Policy and Legal Summit, publishers, privacy regulations, and compliance lawyers came together to discuss the state of privacy. From privacy compliance in CTV to how publishers can navigate the compliance landscape, here are some of the top takeaways from the conference. 

IAB’s Public Policy and Legal Summit Takeaways

CTV: A Compliance Realm of its Own 

CTV is becoming an increasingly important format in ad-supported media. It has become one of the bright spots in media ad spend despite the “ad recession.” Research predicts that CTV ad spend will increase this year while mediums such as linear tv will decrease. Although, CTV compliance regulations come with their own set of challenges.

While privacy regulations for mobile and desktop have difficulties, CTV compliance sits in a realm of its own. For example, it is challenging for consumers to find privacy policies in CTV. The remote control is the primary interface consumers use to interact with CTV, and their function is limited compared to mobile and desktop. Often CTV providers will have a link or QR code to switch to mobile or desktop so consumers can find opt-out options and signals. 

There are also challenges with identity. The CTV space already sits in a cookieless environment. Cookies help desktop and mobile publishers identify and target consumers, and connected tv platforms have often found it challenging to make this process seamless. CTV is also usually connected to a household of people instead of one single consumer.  

CTV platforms will have to learn to improve the user experience regarding privacy, find more seamless ways to identify consumers, and lean on partners that can help them achieve this. 

The Future of the FTC

As one of the U.S.’s primary privacy regulators, the FTC has been cracking down on privacy for the last few years. For instance, in February, the FTC filed a complaint against the drug company GoodRx for allegedly violating consumers’ privacy by sharing their health information with advertisers and other third parties. 

While they aim to protect consumer data, some wonder if the FTC is anti-advertising. Michelle Rosenthal, Senior Attorney at the Federal Trade Commission, understood the sentiment but asserted that the FTC is well aware that advertising is a constitutionally protected right and that protecting consumers’ data is their goal. 

“The current commissioners are concerned about how advertisers use and aggregate data,” said Rosenthal. “They want to establish requirements for publishers and advertisers to balance advertising and privacy ethics.” 

The FTC just asked for a big budget to help them do that. They asked Congress for $140 million. According to Rosenthal, they want to beef up their expertise, such as technologists, multilingual staff, and in-house data experts. Of course, as the FTC works in realms outside of privacy, some of the budgets will go to other areas, but they hope to boost their knowledge and expertise on the subject. 

How Can Publishers Navigate the State Privacy Landscape

We know the U.S. has no robust federal privacy legislation, but where does that leave publishers struggling to navigate the state laws? 

The publishers mentioned the importance of understanding the law and finding ways to explain the regulations simply in your compliance policies for consumers to know how publishers and advertisers use their data. Transparency is the key, but publishers found that with emerging data collection practices, they have needed help to convey these data practices in simple terms. Balancing user experience and compliance is complex but a fine line all publishers must walk. 

“Consumers gravitate towards brands that treat their data properly,” said one publisher. “You need to embed yourself in the industry’s culture to understand the standards for data collection, transparency, and user experience.” 

They also emphasized the importance of having an in-house lawyer and compliance team to inform you about evolving laws and regulations. 

“It’s important for all publishers to have a privacy attorney,” said Marissa Levinson, Associate General Counsel – Privacy, Instacart. “It’s beneficial to help you keep up today on the evolving privacy landscape and to help you create the notices to consumers about their options to consent.” 

In terms of Compliance through the selling process, publishers and attorneys advice that:

  • You must know that the trust conversion happens behind the scenes, on the site, and during the pre-opt-out stage. 
  • Work with advertisers to see how they use consumer data after aggregating on the site.
  • The entire industry should work together to provide a consistent user experience.