Who: Internet Advertising Bureau and the IAB Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence
Where: New York City
When: February 2014
Law stated as at: 6 February 2014
What happened: The Internet Advertising Bureau in conjunction with the IAB Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence has stepped into the “what next after cookies?” debate and published a ground-breaking White Paper analysing the shortcomings of cookies as drivers for online behavioural advertising and positing five potential solutions.
Not all of these are yet available but one stands out head and shoulders above the rest.
Whether any of these solutions would sidestep compliance concerns surrounding third party cookies is not directly addressed, but Osborne Clarke partner and adtech law expert Mark Webber’s initial comments are largely positive.
The IAB white paper is here.
Mark Webber’s comments are below:
The IAB paper is described as “defining stakeholder guiding principles and evaluating approaches for alternative models”, so it is not in itself a definitive proposal for a solution. Instead it puts forward 5 alternative proposals from their “Future of the Cookie Working Group”.
The IAB itself has noted that the cookie, something originally designed for one off data storage, has morphed into “fundamental infrastructure of the internet”. This is a problem for the whole industry as it has created a dependence and proliferated a problem of trust which ultimately led to the EU to amend its cookie rules and regulators around the world to focus in on certain practices. As the IAB itself states, there is “increased anxiety over online privacy, transparency and control”. The ultimate limitations of cookies seem to be appreciated and the fact that representatives of the industry are considering this issue collectively can only be a good thing.
Additionally, the fact the whitepaper is consumer-centric and puts its guiding principles for consumers at the heart of the analysis will help the IAB members in the long run. Recognising the consumer’s needs and advantages of a single privacy dash board or universal view of privacy across all domains and services is also commendable. It should certainly aid transparency and therefore ultimately compliance. Each stakeholder (consumer, publisher or third party) will benefit if technology can continue to innovate and potential solutions are not held-back by regulation. Naturally those the IAB represent have an interest in a self-regulatory solution and being seen as responsible citizen of the web.
Commendable example of self- regulation at work
This is a commendable example of self-regulation at work. The IAB group has examined and explained the potential future alternative to cookies and the “state management” solutions that these solutions could deliver. At its heart is an early examination of best practice for each potential emerging technology. This should go a long way towards building awareness and will help technologists and lawyers alike.
There’s a reason debate often focusses on something narrow like a cookie or IP Address. It’s because many lawyers (and legislators) don’t know enough about technology and how it works to ask any further questions or to spot any wider impact. We have seen many discussions focussing on IP Addresses, yet ignoring all the other potential identifiers being collected. This whitepaper is educating us all about the future technologies and approaches already evolving.
Whether we like them or not, the solution cookies or future tracking devices offer to the public is free content and services funded by other third parties. Whilst the activities can appear “big brother” like and harmful, the level of access and innovation it facilitates on the Internet is not necessarily bad. The whole industry needs to convey the relationship between advertising practices and this “free” content and services. Although initially wary, most web users, when educated, will buy into this (particularly when they understand and have a degree of control). With this thought leadership the IAB is anticipating this need and starting to put its best foot forward.
Further regulatory hurdles may be on the way in Europe
Let’s not forget this is an international initiative and the group has a US flavour. No doubt with the EU Regulation looming and potentially more rules around “profiling” (the connecting and linking of personal data with the aim of creating a broader and more predictable understanding) there may yet be further hurdles for some of the stakeholders referenced in this whitepaper.
Perhaps wisely it seems the IAB is not endorsing any of these potential alternative to cookies at the present time. It recognises that “there is no perfect solution” right now. However, if the moment continues to build and the industry things about best practice and privacy as the solutions evolve all stakeholders should benefit. This is just the kind of “Privacy by Design” our friends in Europe would hope for (and may soon require if the Regulation comes into force).