Not unlike tightrope walkers of old, navigating the issues of data privacy and security in the online advertising industry means pulling off a daunting balance act; it often entails treading a fine line between preserving the benefits the industry generates and the concerns related to the privacy of Internet users.
TYPES (Towards transparency and privacy in the online advertising business), a project funded through the Horizon 2020 Programme of the EC, aims to accomplish just this: find the balance between building up the trust of end-users in the online advertising ecosystem by enhancing security of personal data and augmenting the transparency of practices in this field, and helping the industry continue to create jobs, spark innovation, and generate economic growth.
Already in their second project year, the technical partners from the TYPES consortium have created a series of tools designed to help the idea of a healthier, more transparent, and thriving online advertising ecosystem come to fruition. How to best disseminate these tools? Few avenues would have been better than the CPDP 2017 conference held in Brussels, the European hub of cyber security and digital privacy.
For TYPES, the conference was a boon of positive feedback, new ideas, and perspectives for the future of the online advertising environment. The project chose to organize a panel at this prestigious event and a booth where the partners could showcase and demonstrate the tools developed under the TYPES umbrella to a large and diverse audience ranging from lay end-users to experts in the field; both critical to the successful adoption of the TYPES tools once the commercial exploitation phase is entered.
The panel, entitled Online Advertising, Data Protection and Privacy Concerns of Users, Industry and Regulators, whose recording is available here, looked at a series of thorny questions plaguing the topic of digital privacy such as what makes a “bad guy” bad in AdTech, what does it actually mean to mishandle personal data, or how easy it will be to efficiently monitor the implementation of the GDPR. The Panel boasted a lineup of reputed professors from Europe and the US, politicians, and industry experts, and it was chaired by IAB Europe CEO, Townsend Feehan, and moderated by Telefónica’s Dr. Nikolaos Laoutaris.
The booth was also a resounding success, with all the tools presented receiving overwhelming positive feedback and, in places, that much needed constructive criticism intrinsic to any successful project. It amply fulfilled the main key objectives set by the consortium when the decision was made to take part in the CPDP: on the one hand, it acted as an efficient dissemination platform allowing the project representatives to inform CPDP attendees of the purpose of the project, the transparency philosophy incorporated in the spirit of the project, and to provide them with flyers; on the other, it enabled the project consortium to walk over 350 visitors to the TYPES booth through five different demonstrators of TYPES technologies: eyeWndr, Facebook Data Valuation Tool (FDVT), testyourpivacy portal, personal data pricing information web portal, Data Broker, and an automatic tool to create personas to understand potential tracking of users. The FDVT alone saw over 500 new registrations (out of over 4,000) in the wake of this event, testament to its success.
In the end, having visitors generally agreeing that Internet users and the public at large lack the knowledge and awareness of privacy and that this is a pressing issue that the modern society is facing, coupled with the goal of creating a healthier, flourishing online advertising ecosystem reinforced the drive of the TYPES consortium and their determination to help build an online environment that benefits all.