Blog

Submitted by Anthony Matyjas... on December 11, 2014

I am fascinated by Silicon Valley and, as an American, incredibly proud of  the innovation of US companies ranging from startups to household names.

Like most consumers, I’m hooked! I use most of the products and services developed in Silicon Valley every day.  A small sample: social networking, email, online shopping,  cloud backup services,  music streaming and  video sharing services. I love it. All of it. 

And yes, I am biased, but I also love the advertising that allows me to access all of these services free of charge - and the more creative and relevant the advertising experience, the more engaging, useful, and interesting it is. As a recently new parent, I’ve seen my online ads change from sports cars to minivans, based on my browsing patterns (this helped me find a great deal on a new family hauler!). 

Our nation’s tech innovation isn’t limited to Silicon Valley, but is spread across the entire US.  As a New Englander, I often travel to industry events in Boston, where I am pleased to see NAI member companies such as DataXu and Oracle (BlueKai).

My fascination with and love for tech doesn’t mean that I ignore the challenges faced by our industry.  In my experience, companies — or more precisely certain individuals at some companies — sometimes check their common sense at the door when it comes to the collection and use of consumer data. I don’t think it is malicious or evil, but it often is nearsighted.  Sometimes mistakes are made because of the complexity of our business and our rapidly changing business models.   These  actions impact the reputation of our entire industry.   When one company uses data irresponsibly or even makes an unintentional error, I’m concerned that it makes us all look bad and impacts consumer trust and public perceptions of our industry and specifically  NAI member companies. NAI members are industry leaders who are passionate about  creativity, innovation, competition, and the emergence of new and better methods of digital advertising to offer consumers a personalized experience and relevant advertising.  Of course, we want to see our members grow, succeed and profit and these companies show that playing by the rules is good for business.  

We believe that robust self-regulation with high standards backed up by ongoing compliance is the path to success for our industry.  High standards and evolving guidance help companies navigate the challenging waters of responsible data collection in the age of big data. We believe that flexible self-regulation, supported by compliance and enforcement, is better for both consumers and the industry than government regulations or legislation that cannot evolve as technology and business models evolve. 

This is why I love and believe in self-regulation, and why I am so passionate about the mission and the stated principles of NAI.  I believe that industry really benefits from strong self-regulation - high standards developed and enforced by industry.  But it can’t be a paper exercise.  It isn’t about optics.  It’s about protecting the viability of a system that provides the free, ad-supported, diverse, online content that consumers have come to expect by helping to ensure responsible data management and respect for consumers’ preferences online. 

NAI’s health standards are the best example of this.  Sure, companies can create audience segments about sensitive heath topics such as mental health, addiction, abuse, AIDS and other medical conditions.  Nonetheless, our members have decided we shouldn’t do that without affirmative consumer consent. That was a decision by our members who make up the NAI Board and our working groups.  This is also true for our standards for sexual orientation.   

As Counsel and Director of Compliance, I am very, very proud of what we do and I know that we are widely respected in DC today.  In my opinion, whether or not there is the risk of federal legislation on privacy,  NAI’s efforts to further expand our Code and lead the industry are needed now more than ever.

Submitted by Guest on December 1, 2014

By Joshua Koran, SVP of Product Management, Turn

This past Saturday was Small Business Saturday, a day designed to highlight the important role that America’s small businesses play in the U.S. economy. This holiday season, as shoppers support local and small businesses, we should remember the role that the digital advertising community plays in helping to boost small business and promote fair commerce. Enabling that choice and ensuring consumers continue to have a breadth of options is a key benefit of our online technology ecosystem. Companies such as Turn help keep the internet free, open and competitive.

The vibrant ecosystem that supports small business online is built on a foundation of small publishers, offering consumers far more diversity of content than can be provided solely by their larger media rivals. Advertising revenues are often these “mom and pop” small businesses’ sole source of income. And, smaller sites are often a critical venue for small and local businesses to advertise their products and services.

NAI member companies nurture the long-term health of the online ecosystem by providing the foundation for a thriving and diverse market of ad-supported free content and services. Small publishers rely on third parties, such as analytics vendors, to understand the popularity of the content they publish. Third-party advertising technology companies help create publisher revenues to pay staff salaries and overhead. These third parties aggregate the content created by millions of small publishers and offer media buyers a reach of advertising opportunities that is comparable to that provided by large, vertically integrated publishers. As members of NAI, these third parties preserve consumer trust by committing themselves to a high standard for responsible data collection and use. NAI member companies comply with NAI’s tough Code of Conduct and must provide users a means to opt-out of Interest-Based Advertising via the NAI opt-out tool.

Turn takes a leading role in helping develop the self-regulatory privacy regulations required to protect the interests of consumers, while simultaneously protecting the interests of small businesses. We believe in creating fair and honest marketplaces and in respecting the privacy rights of consumers. The Internet thrives on diversity and competition. Ensuring startups and small businesses can continue to offer competitive products and services to consumers is vital to supporting our nation’s vibrant economic ecosystem. So this holiday season, let’s remember the important role each of us plays in maintaining the free and open digital environment that keeps small businesses open year round.

Submitted by Jurgen Van Staden on November 26, 2014

Three years ago, the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI) joined with a wide range of constituencies at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Tracking Protection Working Group in an attempt to turn the phrase “do not track” into a meaningful global privacy standard that addresses both technical and policy challenges. NAI brought a unique perspective to the discussions because of our understanding of both privacy issues and online advertising our appreciation for the unique role of responsible third parties in delivering relevant digital advertisements. This perspective is reflected in our own tough standards that set a high bar for responsible data collection and use by our members.

Unfortunately, after investing significant resources into the Working Group’s “do not track” efforts over the past three years, we have concluded that NAI has no choice but to withdraw from the Group. The process, which has been so riddled with substantive and procedural flaws, will simply not produce a meaningful privacy standard. The remaining participants may well force through a standard, but that standard will be driven by a handful of stakeholders who represent only sliver of the ecosystem and who have competitive interests in the outcome. At this point, the prospects of wide scale adoption are remote at best and any “do not track” standard likely will be outdated before the first company can even sign on.

The concept of a new privacy choice mechanism is a laudable objective and many well intentioned individuals assembled at W3C, but the fact is that “do not track” is now so off track it is time to bring the process to close.

NAI is not alone in concluding that the W3C process is fatally flawed. The Working Group has gone from nearly 70 enthusiastic companies, trade associations, advocacy groups, and experts three years ago to barely a dozen individuals from a handful of organizations today. The reason is that, like NAI, many of these groups question the likelihood of a positive outcome and have been concerned about the integrity of the process. NAI joins these groups in concluding that the W3C effort cannot produce a responsible or practical standard.

While the W3C Tracking Protection Working Group’s process should end, this ending should mark the beginning of new efforts to help ensure the success of the global Internet and the protection of consumers’ privacy interests. Privacy in the digital age – and the era of big data -- is a legitimate concern. Innovation, personalization, and even customized advertising do not need to be at odds with privacy and responsible data governance. Moreover, privacy and profits are not zero sum game.

Responsible data collection and use are fundamental to the success of the commercial Internet, as are the principles of notice, choice, transparency, data minimization, use limitations, security, and accountability. Consumers should be able to express their preferences about the collection and use of their information — online and offline — and responsible actors of all shapes, sizes and labels should honor those preferences. These are the bedrock principles of the NAI Code of Conduct.

NAI believes in such high standards because consumer trust is fundamental to the success of the Web and the free, ad supported products and services consumers have come to expect. Consumer trust will be equally fundamental to the success of the “Internet of Things” as technology brings so many opportunities – and challenges – that could not have been imagined only a few years ago.

It is time to move on from the W3C “do not track” process. We look forward to working with other stakeholders on efforts to help ensure the health of our global online ecosystem. NAI is eager to invest our resources in new initiatives that address our core values of providing consumers with notice, choice, transparency, control, and accountability.

Submitted by Ryan Cliche on November 24, 2014

It’s been quite a month for NAI. We’ve been able to demonstrate to the industry and privacy community why we are the leading self-regulatory association dedicated to responsible data collection and its use for digital advertising. Last week on our blog, we showcased another example of the depth of the NAI Board’s practical and in-depth knowledge of both privacy issues and the ad industry, with four NAI leaders participating as faculty in a one-day PLI program titled, “Tracking and Targeting Customers and Prospects.” The previous week, the blog highlighted NAI’s participation in the International Association of Privacy Professionals’ Digital Advertising & Privacy conference (IAPP).

This week, it was time for the NAI staff to shine and showcase their knowledge to NAI members. More than 70 members joined NAI Board Chairman Doug Miller (who is also Vice President and Global Privacy Leader at AOL), NAI President Marc Groman, and the NAI staff for an all-NAI member call. The purpose of the call was to update NAI members on the ground-breaking activities currently being undertaken by the staff.

The agenda was jam packed with important updates provided by NAI staff.  Highlights included:

  • NAI Counsel and Assistant Director for Policy Jurgen Van Staden provided an update on NAI’s Beyond Cookies Working Group. This group has been meeting to create a draft policy document that would provide guidance for NAI members on the use of non-cookie technologies for interest-based advertising (IBA) and making them compliant with the NAI Code, especially the principles of transparency, control, and accountability. Working Group members volunteered many hours over the past year to work through challenging issues with the goal of defining a framework that would allow members to use stat ID/non-cookie technologies for IBA.

    Jurgen announced that the draft policy document containing this framework is available for review by members. He said that the draft is a thorough, practical, balanced, implementable, and enforceable framework that would allow NAI to green light the use of stat IDs in a responsible, Code-compliant manner. Central to the proposed beyond cookies framework is the development of a new opt-out page that can facilitate the policy requirements contained in the draft guidance document.

    Jurgen told the members that there is still much work to be done on the framework, including addressing legal issues. He is planning a series of webinars and in-person meetings with NAI members to provide additional information and to obtain input from the membership. 

  • NAI General Counsel Noga Rosenthal then briefed the membership on the 2014 compliance program. She thanked the membership for their cooperation in submitting the necessary information for the NAI Compliance Team to review each member company. Participation in the NAI Compliance Review is mandatory for all NAI members. The NAI compliance process relies on a variety of reviews and assessments by NAI staff, including the use of an automated technical tool that monitors the functioning of member opt-out mechanisms, as well as an evaluation of members’ public-facing materials like privacy policies. NAI staff spent hundreds of hours reviewing member responses to detailed annual review questionnaires about compliance with the NAI Code of Conduct. These reviews are coupled with interviews with each evaluated member, conducted by at least two NAI staff members.

    Noga told the membership that the staff is drafting the 2014 Compliance Report and reminded members that enforcement of the Mobile Code will start next year.

  • Next, NAI’s Counsel and Assistant Director of Technology and Data Science Shaq Katikala provided members with an overview of NAI’s new compliance technical monitoring tool. The compliance tool provides a more comprehensive view of the online activities of our members by looking at opt-outs, relevant data collection practices, and privacy policies. This tool is designed to detect opt-out errors on desktop browsers, mobile browsers, mobile apps, and other platforms. Using proprietary technology, it will be capable of producing insights on nearly all major forms of online data collection. That includes not just cookies, but location data, personal directory data, client-side storage, and active statistical identifiers. It also includes an integrated privacy policy scanner, which helps spot changes to members' business models and practices that may raise potential compliance questions.

    Shaq said that this new technology allows NAI to have a 360-degree view of members’ business practices. The technology was built in-house. NAI President Marc Groman described the new software as a “game changer” for the self-regulatory industry in the use of technology to monitor compliance.

  • NAI Vice President for Member Services & Business Development Bruce Morris then provided the membership with an overview of the upcoming NAI Board of Directors elections. He announced that the Board will be expanded to 15 from its current 12 members. Members who are interested in joining the Board should contact Bruce at Bruce@networkadvertising.org.
     
  • NAI Chief Operating Officer Ryan Cliche announced the date for the 2015 Member Summit: May 21, 2015, in New York City. This will be the third annual Summit, an event that attracts leaders in the industry who care about innovation, state-of-the-art digital advertising, high standards, and best practices for the third-party online ecosystem. If you are interested in participating in the Summit Planning Working Group or would like to propose a session to present, please email Ryan at ryan@networkadvertising.org. Those who are interested in sponsorship opportunities should contact Bruce Morris at Bruce@networkadvertising.org.
     
  • Ryan also announced that work is almost completed on NAI’s new consumer education website that expands our focus beyond web browsers and cookies. New content and graphics will be ready in the next couple of months.

As you can see, NAI has a lot on our plate for the next several months. We are very excited about the future and are proud of the innovative and proactive approach that the organization is taking. We are showing the world that effective self-regulation works!