Commentary

IAB Best Practices Miss Mark On Data Sharing

I believe the IAB's recently released "B2C and B2B Best Practices for U.S.-based Advertisers and Publishers" are a long-overdue step in the right direction, and go a long way to ensuring the continued health of our fast-growing industry--and I commend all the members of the IAB Lead Generation Committee for their hard work. Real progress on important issues such as disclosure, transparency, consumer experience and data collection has been made.

I only wish that our industry would go farther and address the issue of sharing consumer email data that is collected by many lead-generation companies with third-party partners for the purpose of sending email.

This practice of sharing email data is the main culprit plaguing consumers and stigmatizing the online lead-generation industry. Consumers lose confidence and trust in sharing their email address with legitimate marketers when their inbox is flooded with hundreds of unwanted emails from unknown marketers, all as a result of signing up for just one offer from one provider--who then sells the consumer's valuable contact information to its marketing partners.

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And the consumer has no idea of who these emails are coming from, since it's an unsolicited third-party sender. As if this situation isn't bad enough for consumers, to top it off, they can't even opt-out! Their data will continue to be shared, and they are caught in a continuous cycle of unwanted emails.

A better practice is to make consumers opt-in to one advertiser at a time. That is my recommendation to our clients, publishers, and to industry leaders. This is in the best interest of the long-term health of our industry.

Lead generation is a spectacular product. It allows consumers to raise their hands and ask for information. Lead generation's one un-doing will be if we lose the trust of consumers who can't be sure where their data is going. Sharing data to turn a quick profit is not in the best interest of our clients, consumers, or our industry.

I've suggested this hard stance on data sharing to many of my colleagues at other companies, as well as industry leaders. Unfortunately it is not a popular position. While I disagree, I understand that perhaps for many who have made data sharing a big part of their business model, ceasing this practice may be a very hard decision, and costly in the short term.

I would at least ask that if companies in our industry continue to share their consumer's data with third parties (which, again, I am against) they at least must offer a Global Opt-Out mechanism. Such a mechanism would allow consumers to opt-out of all unwanted emails from all the marketing partners with just one click of an unsubscribe link. A simple opt-out from the original publisher, and/or all of their partners that they have shared data with should take the consumer off any and all of the email lists that originated from the original sign-up.

I will continue to advocate for stricter data-sharing standards, and hope to collaborate with the leaders in our industry to further these issues.

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