How the Cookie Crumbles

Privacy is a topic that’s on everyone’s mind. In fact, 44% of business executives—including advertisers, marketers, and publishers—list privacy, security, and data governance as major hurdles that inhibit faster data management platform (DMP) deployment, according to “The Data Management Platform: Foundation for Right-Time Customer Engagement” report by Winterberry Group and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).

But Jonathan Margulies, managing director of Winterberry Group, says this concern has less to do with DMPs and more to do with industry-wide anxieties about the sourcing, managing, and deployment of data.

Kevin Trilli, VP of products for TRUSTe, cites three key privacy issues facing companies that want to deploy DMP—issues that stem from the anti-third-party-cookie environment threatening to become the norm among Internet browser providers.

The first issue, he says, centers on consumer expectations. With certain desktop browsers and virtually all mobile browsers now blocking third-party cookies, companies have begun combining first-and third-party data to enrich profiles. Consumers, who are largely unaware of this practice and have not explicitly approved of it, might be concerned if it becomes more mainstream.

The second privacy issue is non-cookie tracking, in which companies aggregate various device characteristics, creating a pool of similar-looking devices. This is called passive fingerprinting. While tracking by latching onto a unique identifier like a device ID is more precise, it requires a mobile app environment; passive fingerprinting can happen within mobile desktops and device browsers. The privacy concern, however, is that consumers have no way of knowing when their device has been fingerprinted.

“There is no privacy regime out there that’s been developed to make sure that consumers have at least the same privacy protections for those mechanisms that they have for cookies,” Trilli says.

The third issue is cross-device tracking. While marketers and advertisers want to know exactly how and where people consume and engage with content, consumers are largely unaware their activity on one device could be connected to activity on another device. As with the issue around aggregating first-and third-party data, companies might face backlash if a sudden publicity surge brings this practice into light.

The best way to address these issues, Trilli says, is to provide clear privacy disclosures and opt-out methods.

“What are you tracking and how do I keep you from doing it?” asks Brian Deagan, CEO and president of Knotice. “Brands need to be able [to answer those questions from customers]. And if they can do that, then things get relatively simple.”

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