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Self-Regulation…with Teeth

I attended the International Association of Privacy Professional’s Digital Advertising & Privacy conference in NYC.  The sold out event hit some of the hottest and most critical issues in privacy today and also showcased why NAI is the leading self-regulatory association dedicated to responsible data collection and its use for digital advertising. 

Not only did the conference speakers and panelists include several NAI members and staff, but NAI was specifically highlighted by a federal regulator who hailed the “great work” undertaken by our organization.

In the keynote address by Maneesha Mithal, the Associate Director of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Division of Privacy and Identity Protection, she praised self-regulation, and specifically called out NAI.  Mithal stated that, at the FTC, NAI’s program is the type of self-regulatory program “we are talking about...self-regulation with teeth."   That high praise from a federal regulator makes us proud!

Later in the day, Lael Bellany, Chief Privacy Counsel of the Weather Channel, noted that when she partners with third parties she always does her due diligence by first asking for NAI membership. She demands an explanation from any network or third party who is not an NAI member.  She praised both the NAI’s standards and our hallmark compliance program.

Our own Marc Groman (NAI’s President and CEO) had earlier opened the conference with a presentation - Ad Tech 101 for Privacy Counsel.  This introductory session about the digital advertising industry helped set the stage for the panels to follow, covering everything from cookies, cookie syncing and new tracking technologies to an overview of the diverse players in the digital advertising ecosystem.  Marc explained the value that responsible third parties bring to the table, helping brands reach the right consumers at the right time with the right ads while also helping publishers maximize revenue for their ad inventory. 

The first panel of the day covered onboarding offline data and featured Becky Burr, Deputy General Counsel & CPO of NAI member company, Neustar.  The key takeaway from this panel was how NAI members apply the NAI Code of Conduct to onboarding offline data and best practices for maintaining the separation between Personal Identifiable Information and Non-Personally Identifiable Information.

That panel was followed by our own Shaq Katikala, NAI's Compliance and Technology Fellow, who conducted the first-ever public demonstration of NAI’s state-of-the art privacy policy scanner.  (Read Shaq’s earlier blog post for more information.)  As our members know, NAI staff reviews member’s privacy policies on an annual basis to help members ensure that they are in compliance with the NAI Code of Conduct.

The NAI is now utilizing this tool that scans member’s privacy policy on a continuous basis in an effort to move towards real time compliance and ongoing checks.  The scanner helps pick up any changes to a member’s privacy policy, helps flag any business model changes as indicated in a privacy policy, and helps staff stay connected with members.  As always, it is the NAI’s goal to find potential issues before they could become a problem for both consumers and our member companies. 

The use of precise location information for mobile advertising was also addressed on a panel in the afternoon that included The Weather Channel’s Lael Bellamy and the FTC’s Melinda Claybaugh, who confirmed that the FTC views this information as sensitive and requires higher obligations than other types of data.  The panel discussed the challenges of obtaining consent for the use of location information by third parties as well as the lack of specificity about what is meant by “precise” location v. location generally.

The day wrapped up with a lively panel about cross-device.  NAI Board Members Alexis Goltra, Chief Privacy Officer and Asst. General Counsel for Privacy & Security at Oracle, and David Wainberg, Privacy & Policy Counsel at AppNexus, led this discussion.  One take away was the need for self-regulation to step into this space and help industry define best practices, particularly concerning what type of choice should be offered to consumers around data collection and use in cross-device advertising. 

In sum, the panels generated animated discussions around the broad range of issues and challenges facing all NAI members.  The panelists represented all facets of the ad tech industry, bringing their experience and knowledge to an engaged and curious audience.  We are proud of the number of NAI members and staff who participated on these panels, showing the central role of the NAI in the ad tech industry.