Privacy, Portability, And Mobility: The Consultant Weighs In
by Steve Smith, Jul 13, 2007, 2:15 PM
Anyone who has been in the digital media business for the past decade will recognize Alan Chapell. For nearly five years he ran the privacy program at Jupiter Research and then helped DoubleClick develop its research and ad effectiveness products. Before starting his own consultancy, Chapell & Associates, in 2003, he also worked with Yesmail and Cheetahmail. An expert in best practices and privacy issues for emerging platforms, Chapell will moderate our panel on the future of behavioral targeting at Mediapost’s Behavioral Marketing Forum in New York on July 24. Chapell & Associates provides business and legal advice to interactive marketers, brands, BT firms and media companies. We asked him about the growing importance of user data to the business models of the publishers he consults.
Behavioral Insider: How are publishers viewing the BT vendors? Are there key points of concern or confusion in shopping for BT providers?
Alan Chapell: There are so many companies out there who are holding themselves out to offer behavioral targeting services right now. As some of the firms have rushed to market to say that they ‘offer BT too,’ some are offering a watered-down version of BT. That and the myriad of methodologies offered make it challenging for the advertiser to do an apples to apples comparison.
Behavioral Insider: Are there any ongoing issues involved for publishers in sharing their user profiles and behaviors with the networks?
Chapell: Publishers continue to suffer through logistical problems. It’s getting better, but it’s still not easy to execute a BT-driven campaign – either from the publisher or the advertiser side.
Behavioral Insider: How has the issue of data portability evolved recently? What is it, and why is it important?
Chapell: At this point, data portability is pretty much just a concept that’s being discussed in privacy circles and by other thought leaders. John Battelle, for example, has posted a draft data bill of rights on his blog. It’s an interesting idea. It’s encouraging that Google claims to be committed to data portability. The idea [is] that consumers have a right to their data -- that they can take their data from one organization to another in the same way they can move their money in and out of various financial institutions.
And in fact, someone has recently decided to test the concept -- by auctioning off some of his data on eBay. He’s done this a couple of times and apparently raised some good money for charity. The first time he sold it for $450. I placed a bid on a subsequent auction and was able to get it for $100.
Now I think we’re years away (if ever) from the day when a consumer is able to sell his or her information to the highest bidder on a one-off basis. For one thing, there are too many logistical hurdles that would need to be overcome. But I think you’ll see the Experians of the world or a media or BT network get into the business of selling non-pii-(personally identifiable information) based profiles long before we’ll see consumers do it themselves.
What we will see sooner, rather than later, is the ability for a consumer to port information from one application -- say, their blog postings -- to another application. But that’s probably getting a bit off topic.
Behavioral Insider: What are some of the public policy challenges that are impacting BT?
Chapell: One of the largest public policy issues facing BT is the lack of widespread industry participation in self-regulation. As I mentioned previously, there are many, many different firms out there that are holding themselves out as offering BT services. For the sake of argument, let’s say there are at least 40 companies who currently offer some form of BT services. Yet fewer than half of them are currently listed as full compliance members of the Network Advertising Initiative, the industry trade association responsible for creating and (with the help of TRUSTe) enforcing privacy standards for BT. And we’re not just talking about the little guys here. Some very large firms are conspicuously absent from the NAI’s full compliance member list.
At one time, the Federal Trade Commission applauded the NAI Principles as a vehicle for ensuring privacy via Notice and Choice mechanisms. But if the industry isn't fully embracing or adopting these standards, it would seem only a matter of time before regulators step in.
Behavioral Insider: You are on a few committees of the Mobile Marketing Association. Given the sensitivity of users and carriers to using any form of personal data from the mobile platform, do technologies like BT have a future on mobile? In what forms?
Chapell: The ethical use of BT profiles in the mobile space is inevitable. It absolutely will happen. But I think mobile BT suffers from many of the same challenges that are impacting the rest of the mobile landscape. Namely, issues around standardization. I know there are some companies that are claiming to be able to do it today, but most of them operate off deck. So I remain skeptical in the short team. If there’s anyone out there who feels like they are effectively executing mobile BT today, I’d invite them to contact me for a briefing.
And it’s a bit concerning when I watch some in the mobile media space repeat the mistakes that online media made back in 1999.
Behavioral Insider: What mistakes are you referring to?
Chapell: The DoubleClick / Abacus issue -- when the company announced their intention to combine profiling data from their ad server with personally identifiable information from Abacus. In some respects, DoubleClick never really recovered from the controversy caused by that announcement.
So when I hear about folks in mobile media publicly talking about the use of invisible tracking devices, and the combination of personally identifiable information with mobile and online profiling information, I think it’s only a matter of time before someone in that space gets thumped by a regulator or consumer advocate.
Having said that, the Mobile Marketing Association is doing some great work around best practice standards. I chair the MMA Privacy and Preference Committee, and one of our goals is to be out in front of these issues prior to something happening that would negatively impact the mobile ecosystem.
NOTE: We invite all our Behavioral Insider readers to participate in the Behavioral Marketing Forum by helping us “Grill the CEOs.” At a morning session on July 24, NetPlus Marketing co-founder Denise Zimmerman will interrogate the CEOs of the major vendors of behavioral products about how they are addressing media planners’ ongoing confusions and concerns about BT. What would you like to ask them? Send your suggested questions to Steve Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.