Submitted by NAI on March 3, 2015

I don’t officially start as the new President and CEO of NAI until March 16, but NAI was kind enough to allow me to be a “guest blogger” today so that I can introduce myself to the NAI membership, prospective members and other stakeholders. I’m thrilled and honored to join NAI.

I am incredibly fortunate to begin my work with an organization that has already become the standard bearer in the industry for robust and accountable self-regulation, and the NAI Board has been instrumental in that evolution. I want to thank Marc Groman for his tireless work and impressive achievements on behalf of NAI. Marc has assembled a great NAI staff of privacy professionals, ad industry vets, and computer and data scientists who together make NAI the leading self-regulatory association dedicated to responsible data collection and its use for digital advertising, and I am really excited to work with them. With the support of Marc and the NAI staff, I am confident that NAI’s leadership transition will be seamless.

I spent the last 11 years at AOL Inc., most recently serving as the company’s vice president and chief counsel for global public policy. Prior to that, I led the legal team responsible for AOL’s advertising platforms and its third party network business. My career has permitted me to experience first-hand the tremendous contributions that NAI members have made to our industry.

I believe my experience at AOL and in the digital advertising space has been a customized training program for leading the NAI. I have been in the trenches during some of the most important changes in our industry, from standard display ads to the latest technology advances in programmatic advertising. I have worked to educate lawmakers and regulators on these issues and I have fought hard for responsible and robust self-regulation.

I strongly believe that self-regulation fosters innovation and encourages creative problem-solving. Of course, self-regulation is only effective when it is measurable, disciplined, rigorous, and backed by a serious commitment to enforcement. Self-regulation excels by maintaining high standards while providing constantly evolving guidance, helping businesses keep pace with rapid changes in technology and allowing the Internet economy to flourish.

From my perspective, the NAI's self-regulatory program does all of that, and more. NAI maintains a critical role at the intersection of consumer privacy needs and effective advertising delivery. The NAI Code is clear, comprehensive, and direct; and its enforcement program works. I am committed to continuing to build on the NAI's outstanding reputation and ensure that NAI’s self-regulatory program remains strong.

I look forward to meeting NAI members at the 2015 NAI Member Summit in New York City on Thursday, May 21. This event is a great opportunity for NAI members to learn about the important issues that our industry faces today, from innovation and changing technologies to new business models that enable brands to more effectively engage with their customers across screens, devices and platforms.

This is an exciting time for our industry, and I look forward to working with the NAI board, staff and membership to preserve, and enhance, the tremendous value of the digital advertising ecosystem.

Submitted by NAI on February 25, 2015

In a new blog post on the IAPP site, NAI President and CEO Marc Groman describes NAI's industry leading self-regulatory standards to protect the privacy of LGBT internet users and others who search online for information on sexual orientation.

In the piece, Marc describes a potential scenario in which a young man or (woman) searches on his computer in the privacy of his home for information about sexual orientation or coming out as gay. Hours or days later, he receives ads for gay-related products or services while surfing on totally unrelated websites.

Marc says, "There aren’t many examples where simply the presentation of an ad online can cause embarrassment or lead to more serious outcomes, but this is one of them."

The power of interest-based advertising (IBA) means that internet users are more likely to be served ads that are relevant to them. But, Marc points out, "an individual should not need to worry that reading about an LGBT topic on one site will place their browser, device or user in a 'gay' audience segment and cause ads to show up on totally unrelated sites at unexpected times."

That's why, in the 2013 Code update, NAI expanded the definition of sensitive information to include sexual orientation. In short, this means that the NAI Code prohibits its members from creating audience segments or interest categories for IBA based on an individual’s status or perceived status as LGBT without obtaining opt-in consent.

Marc notes that the decision to make this change was not required by law. Rather, the NAI Board of Directors, whose membership includes industry leaders from digital media companies, voluntarily voted 12 - 0 to make this change in the Code. "This isn’t about the law," says Marc. "It’s about what’s right."

Read the full post on this example of strong self-regulation at work on the IAPP site.

Submitted by NAI on February 23, 2015

You’ve been with NAI for over 3 years now, and you still work for NAI from the organization’s original location in the state of Maine.

That’s true - I have been working for the NAI since 2011. I was hired as a law clerk while at University of Maine School of Law, when the organization’s main office was based in Maine. Since then we have expanded our presence in the technology stronghold of New York City, and the regulatory hotbed of Washington DC, which home to NAI’s headquarters. I wouldn’t be surprised if we expand even further over the coming years!

What made you want to join NAI?

During my time at the University of Maine School of Law, I focused on privacy law and I was incredibly fortunate to land at NAI. The NAI allowed me the opportunity to continue that trajectory. Through pure serendipity, I attended a law school with regular access to both NAI and IAPP, so I took advantage of that and interned at both organizations. That helped me realize that privacy, especially in light of the possibilities of data collection present online today, is of paramount importance.

Another factor that drew me to working on privacy issues is that there is relatively little law currently on the books, at least compared to other fields. That means our work relies less on prior jurisprudence, but rather, focuses on actively helping to drive future policy in the sector. NAI members help set strategy and guidance, with the assistance of NAI staff, rather than rely strictly on rules set by others in the past. Frankly, as fast as technology advances, that is a wonderful thing, because we have to rewrite and reevaluate the rules almost on a yearly basis. Speaking of technology, that has been a lifelong passion of mine dating back to childhood. I couldn’t be any happier than I am working at the crossroads where privacy, technology, and digital media meet.

Of course, great organizations need to have outstanding staff. Here, the NAI really shines. We have a team of incredibly savvy individuals, who think pragmatically about our role in the ecosystem without succumbing to knee-jerk reactions that can often do more harm than good, both for industry and for consumers. Every day I am amazed at the level of sophistication in our team’s analysis of the issues, and I have learned so much from my coworkers.

In your opinion, what is the NAI all about?

Essentially, we help the websites that we all love to read, especially those without a broad reach, to get paid for their content, while working with the companies that collect data on those sites and use it to select ads, to do so in a responsible and consumer-friendly manner.

An important thing to understand about NAI – and about my job in particular – is that we are in constant contact with our member companies. Everything that we do is informed by the experiences of our members and by the rapidly changing technology in our space.

This means that when we put forth new policies or principles, we’ve heard from all aspects of the ad tech industry. We speak daily with our members, ranging from the companies representing web publishers, who provide the content we all love to access on a daily basis, and the exchanges, who enable real-time trading of advertising inventory on those websites, as well as the companies that add further insight into those advertising decisions by providing demographic data about consumers, all the way to companies who represent the advertisers selling their product.

At the same time, we set rules that really matter. We try to ensure that consumers have notice of data collection, and appropriate choice over its use for Interest-Based Advertising. We also help to ensure that targeted ads based on sensitive health conditions or sexual preference, among a number of other factors, are not presented to users without affirmative consent.

Essentially, we help the websites that we all love to read, especially those without a broad reach, to get paid for their content, while working with the companies that collect data on those sites and use it to select ads, to do so in a responsible and consumer-friendly manner.

Tell our readers a little about your job.

The NAI Code of Conduct doesn’t mean much without a compliance program to help ensure that companies are actually following the rules. What I love about the NAI is that we offer self-regulation that holds our members accountable.

A large portion of my job centers on the compliance program at NAI, both in evaluating potential new members and current members for compliance with the NAI Code. We try to ensure that all member companies are in a good position to comply with our Code of Conduct. As part of that process, I also help to manage the NAI’s responses to allegations of member noncompliance with the Code. Most of the work we do is behind the scenes, in spotting potential issues and helping member companies fix any problems before they become widespread and affect a significant amount of consumers. I think people may not realize how often we reach out to members with small issues, which are then addressed rapidly, before they can turn into big problems. Of course, when stronger action is necessary, the NAI has not hesitated to bring forth public sanctions procedures as well.

When I am not working on compliance matters, I also help drive policy at NAI, along with the rest of the NAI team. We all contribute toward drafting guidance and policy, and I’m happy with all the input I have been able to provide, especially around the NAI’s policy around health-related targeting. That is something I’m particularly passionate about.

What do you see coming next for NAI and the digital advertising industry more generally?

There are a number of evolutionary technologies on the horizon. The NAI is working on guidance for member use of non-cookie technologies, such as statistical identifiers, for Interest-Based Advertising. I am also excited to see growth in strategies for onboarding offline data for use in online ad targeting, and cross-device targeting and attribution. These technologies have the potential to further bolster the health of the ecosystem, and to help website publishers deliver even better content, if they are handled in a responsible manner with adequate notice and choice for consumers. Naturally, these new technologies need some time to develop and mature, so that any self-regulation can be applied equitably and without stymying innovation. It is too early to discuss how NAI may approach these new technologies, but the potential for the industry to grow is tremendous. What a great time to be working in this space!

Submitted by NAI on February 19, 2015

We are proud to announce that Kelly R. Welsh, General Counsel of the United States Department of Commerce, will deliver the keynote address at the 2015 NAI Member Summit.

General Counsel Kelly Welsh

The Summit, scheduled for Thursday, May 21, 2015, in New York City, will address important issues that matter in the global digital advertising industry today, from innovation and the rapidly evolving technologies that enhance our lives to new business models that enable brands to more effectively engage with their customers across screens, devices and platforms. The theme underlying these critical discussions will be the responsible collection, use and management of consumer data, and how robust self-regulation helps ensure responsible business practices, consumer trust and the overall health of the digital ad ecosystem.

Few people are more directly involved with ongoing discussions about economic growth, innovation and commerce than General Counsel Kelly Welsh. The Department of Commerce plays a critical role in the Obama Administration’s development in policy areas concerning consumer privacy, e-commerce and technical innovation. For example, the Department’s Internet Policy Task Force is currently conducting a comprehensive review of the nexus between privacy policy and innovation in the Internet economy.

The Department of Commerce also participated in a recent, significant White House report drafted by the Big Data and Privacy Working Group. Several senior government officials, including U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, were called upon to conduct this wide-ranging review of how big data is transforming the way we live and work. Recommendations provided by the authors show how the U.S. can embrace technology while preserving fundamental values like privacy and fairness.

Recently, Mr. Welsh led a U.S. delegation to the 19th U.S.-China Legal Exchange, where senior officials from the U.S. Government discussed a range of key issues, including promoting data security.

Prior to his current role at Commerce, Mr. Welsh served as a senior executive and general counsel for several companies including Northern Trust Corporation and Ameritech. Mr. Welsh’s substantial experience in the commercial sector provides him with a broad understanding of the challenges faced by companies seeking to compete in the global marketplace, as well as the responsibilities we share as good corporate citizens and stewards of consumers’ data.

Mr. Welsh’s remarks will be especially relevant for NAI members who are known for game changing innovation. At this year’s Summit, speeches and discussions will focus on keeping pace with ever-shifting technologies while upholding the highest standards for consumer privacy and protection.

Learn more about the Summit and register to attend here.

Mr. Welsh’s full bio is available on the Commerce Department website here.