Who: The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), Google, the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB).
When: 17 January 2020
Law stated as at: 5 March 2020
Simon McDougall, the ICO’s Executive Director of Technology and Innovation has published a recent blog on the ongoing regulatory reform of adtech (and particularly real-time bidding).
In it, McDougall highlighted that there is a “significant lack of transparency” because of the nature of the supply chain, which the ICO sees as a “systemic problem”. He applauded two significant new approaches being adopted by two key organisations within the industry: the IAB and Google.
The IAB has agreed a range of principles that work with the ICO’s concerns, including the development of various guidance notes of its own. Google has agreed to remove content categories, improve its supply-chain audit process, and was the latest ISP to announce that it will phase out third-party cookies within the next two years. Arguably, this move from Google could see more of a practical shift within the industry than any regulatory change ever could, given its relative weight.
However, while Google and the IAB were awarded gold stars, the ICO will not be resting on its laurels, noting that many organisations “appear to have their heads firmly in the sand“, specifically turning its guns on the inadequate and overly reliant use by many of legitimate interests to process personal data.
This is the latest update from a hive of regulatory activity over the past year or so focusing on adtech. The ICO started the debate in February 2019 and held a fact-finding forum in March 2019, before issuing its adtech Update Report in June 2019 and following up in December 2019.
What is clear is this: reform has begun and reform will continue.
What is not quite as clear, though, is this: what form will that reform take, and what impact will it have on the industry?
As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “every reform movement has a lunatic fringe”. The ICO, however, has thus far been at pains to both point out the industry-wide problems, while inviting stakeholders to engage with them as they decide how best to tackle those problems.
Why this matters:
Businesses throughout the adtech industry should be well aware of the ICO’s desire to make changes, the ripple effect of which will be felt industry-wide. Now is the time for businesses to review their policies, procedures and contracts to ensure that they are well-prepared for the changes to come.