Like it or not, our industry has a trust issue with consumers. This is not to suggest in any way that we need government to dictate the solution for us. On the contrary, we have to build a self-regulatory system that works: one that consumers feel is transparent, honest and effective and is for their benefit. We all inhabit the same media ecosystem. If we don’t keep it clean and healthy, we will lose consumers’ trust and sacrifice the opportunity for current and future industry leaders to innovate.
Second, because I’m the CEO of the Online Publishers Association, an organization that mostly represents large content creators, some suggested that our support of DNT is also an attempt to disadvantage small content creators and businesses by putting an emphasis on first-party data. Nothing could be further from the truth. All content creators – large and small – benefit when consumers trust not only the information or entertainment they’re consuming, but also the overall context in which that information is being presented. This includes the advertising that helps to subsidize the use of this content, and the personal data that is captured from such consumption. This is not a small versus large company issue. It is an industry issue. Those who would seek to exploit it by attempting to divide the industry are doing much more harm than good.
I’d also like to clarify that I am not “against” new advertising technologies that improve targeting, efficiency and workflow. What I will not support – nor should any marketer or agency leader – is the mismanagement of consumer data and outright fraud. Advertising technology, including smarter targeting, is a huge benefit to marketers, agencies and the consumer. But this only works when we have a healthy and transparent system in place. Yes, we’ve made enormous strides but we are not there yet. Those who so vigorously oppose the debate doth protest too much.
Working groups like the DAA and W3C endeavor to work as a united force to create systems and methods in support of transparency and trust. A privacy mechanism like DNT is a part of that, an enabler of trust. The Internet has enormous reach into our daily lives. Significant problems arise when consumers aren’t fully aware of the choices they have in managing how their personal data is gathered and used by all of us in the business: wireless operators, browser providers, media companies, search companies, social networks and advertisers. The purpose of DNT is not to quell innovation but to find common ground so the controls over tracking – how information is collected and shared – are more apparent to the consumer.
A DNT browser setting – one that can be easily turned on and off by the consumer – is a simple way for non-technical people to have a choice over whether their data is shared across the Web. This is a perfectly reasonable expectation. Consumers should be equipped with a simple, effective way to choose who collects data from them, the same way they choose which websites and apps they visit and use. In the long run, everyone – content creators, marketers, agencies and the consumer – all benefit.