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2017 NAI Summit Summary: My Five Takeaways (plus a Sixth Bonus Takeaway)

By: Leigh Freund, President and CEO of NAI

The 2017 NAI Summit was a great success!  More than 120 NAI member company representatives joined us on May 14 at Chelsea Pier in New York for a day of great panel discussions and presentations.  It was a beautiful, warm spring day at an awesome venue.  I have a few favorite moments and some thoughts about the day that I’d like to share. But first I wanted to recognize our summit sponsors:  Criteo, Google, PlaceIQ, AppNexus, Yahoo!, AOL, Davis & Gilbert LLP, DataXu, Engine Media, Zwillgen and Keller and Heckman LLP.  We could not have had a successful event without the support of these sponsors.  Thank you!

NAI member companies are committed to meaningful and responsible consumer privacy for the digital advertising ecosystem. It’s a significant and important mission, and one I take very seriously. The NAI Summit always provides an opportunity to reflect on where this commitment has taken us and where we still need to go, and allows all of us to renew our commitment to providing real value to our members and to the digital advertising industry overall.

I want to thank our keynote speaker, FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny, who participated in a “fireside chat” with me.  It was an interesting discussion and I appreciate Commissioner McSweeny’s thoughts on what to expect with a new regulatory environment in DC.  I also appreciate her noting the importance of self-regulation: “Organizations like yours have a real role to play,” she said about NAI.  “You can keep pace with dynamic changes of technologies – it’s harder when reacting as an enforcement agency – we are looking at cases that happened one or two years later.  We are behind in marketplace (which is appropriate) while you are at the front of them.  We all want to give consumers meaningful choices so they trust the technology and buy it. If they don’t trust it they won’t buy it.”

Here are a few of my takeaways from the 2016 NAI Summit:

First, and most importantly, NAI and its member companies have shown that self-regulation works, but we must constantly keep evolving to keep up with emerging technologies.  New technologies continue to change the game, pushing NAI to stay ahead of the curve and help our members innovative with privacy in mind – and by design. Just last month, we released new choice tools in collaboration with the Digital Advertising Alliance – the DAA.  These tools were the first to offer a technology-based opt-out for both cookie-based and non-cookie technologies.  This week we released Cross-Device Linking Guidance for NAI Members. This is the type of ongoing collaboration and interaction with our members that makes us unique and ensures that our Code remains principled and inclusive of new technology.

The EU’s GDRP is coming and now is the time for all of us to prepare our companies and engage with European regulators. There was an important panel discussion led by NAI outside Counsel Sheila Millar about “Data Definitions across the World.”  Panelists, including Matthias Mattheisen, Senior Manager, Privacy & Public Policy, IAB Europe; Oliver Gray, Director-General, European Interactive Digital Adverting Alliance; Mike Hintze, Partner at Hintze Law; and, Estelle Werth, Vice President and Global Privacy Officer at Criteo, discussed the challenges that our industry is facing with the different definitions of personal identifiable information (PII) in Europe, the U.S. and other countries.  Mattheisen and Gray discussed the European Union’s General Data Protection Plan (GDPR) and its expanded definition of PII.  All companies must be in full compliance with the GDPR roughly one year from now (May 25, 2018), and panelists urged companies to remain engaged with European regulators on these issues.  I’ve already travelled to Europe several times this year and intend to continue to meet with European regulators and industry leaders to discuss our self-regulation efforts, specifically NAI’s robust compliance and enforcement efforts and our commitment to serious and responsible privacy practices.

The regulatory push from Washington may be slowing down, but the pace from federal and state state legislatures is speeding up.  I participated on a panel on the “Washington Regulatory and Legislative Environment” moderated by WilmerHale Partner Reed Freeman.  Other panelists included Gina Woodworth, Vice President at the Internet Association; DMA Senior Vice President Emmett O’Keefe; and, Noga Rosenthal, Chief Privacy Officer at Epsilon.  My takeaway was that the Trump administration is still working to fill many positions in the agencies, which makes it less likely that there will be much regulatory activity on our issues from DC in the near future.  While it at first appeared that Congress was unlikely to take action on privacy matters, as evidenced by the recent Congressional repeal of internet privacy regulations adopted by the Federal Communications Commission, we came back from the Summit to a House of Representatives bill that would impose FCC-type privacy requirements on edge companies (that’s you!) – more to come on that from me soon.  In addition, state legislatures (and even cities) are taking a much more active role.  Privacy bills have been introduced in several states, including Illinois, Vermont and Washington.  These bills often have unclear and/or broad definitions of the companies they impact, and have potentially troublesome effects on our industry.  NAI is actively working with other industry groups to explain our industry’s technology to policymakers and lawmakers, and ensure a balanced approach to regulation and legislation.

The News on Fake News: More Challenges Ahead.  I moderated a fascinating panel discussion on the “Implications of the Fake News Phenomenon on Digital Ad Companies.” I’m proud to say that I am fairly certain that this was the first all-female panel ever at an NAI summit.  I was joined by Ghita Harris-Newton, Chief Privacy Officer & Deputy General Counsel at Quantcast; Adroll General Counsel Stephanie King; Alice Lincoln, Vice President at MediaMath and Shelly Paioff, VP, Legal Affairs at Taboola. We defined “fake news” as information that is intentionally deceptive; however, panelists acknowledged that satire is a bit of a grey area.  While brands such as The Onion makes it obvious that the “news” it is sharing is satire, this sometimes gets lost when headlines are reposted on social media platforms. Panelists stated that, as ad tech companies, we all have an interest in making our advertisers happy.  One doesn’t need to make a moralistic or political judment about news sites.  The industry consensus is to build safe spaces for our advertisers and support our clients’ needs.  Unfortunately, the growing use of fake news will continue to create challenges for our industry, and it’s up to us to educate consumers about what is fake news and to develop industry best practices that could open the door for more transparency.

The ad tech industry needs to be smart about smart TVs.  NAI Board member Allan Chapell led a discussion about “Privacy Implications of Technology Innovations.” The discussion focuses on the growing popularity of Smart TVs and the new technologies that are being introduced that could fundamentally change TV viewing in the future but also create privacy concerns.  Panelists included Lucid Privacy Group Founder Colin O’Malley; SambaTV CEO Ashwin Navin; and, Mark Partin, Managing Counsel at Oracle.  Televisions have been the one screen that has been slow to join the cross-device advertising space.  The industry needs to be sensitive to the fact that consumers will need to be educated on the value exchange of a better television watching experience in return for sharing data.  This nascent industry is about to take off and there may be a role for self-regulatory organizations like NAI to help create the “rule of the road” for this exciting new technology.

Finally, my bonus takeaway is this: the NAI has a great staff that makes everything we do possible.  I want to thank Anthony Matyjaszewski, Julie Karasik, William Lee, Grant Nelson and Matt Nichols for their hard work in creating and organizing our most interesting and informative summit yet! 

We have a lot of work to do!  The Summit, as with every opportunity we have to interact with the incredible talent our member companies employ, left us energized and excited about the future.

 

We want your insights.  Share your Summit takeaways with us on Twitter using #NAISummit or post them on our Facebook page.  Or send me an email at leigh@networkadvertising.org.  We want to hear from you!