GDPR is expected to bring new levels of transparency to the digital advertising industry. However the new regulations also risk disturbing the current dynamic between publishers, advertisers and users. Some will argue that may not be such a bad thing in an industry where a few tech giants take the lion’s share of advertising dollars and users are tracked to often disturbing levels.

But cleaning up the industry with regulation could have unintended consequences, according Somer Simpson, head of product for GDPR, Quantcast.

“The intent behind GDPR is very positive as it focuses on the right to privacy, transparency, and control for consumers and for publishers. GDPR’s focus will bring much needed transparency to the entire ecosystem,” Simpson told Which-50.

“The trick will be doing that and still being able to provide consumers with unhindered access to relevant news, advertising and information.”

Somer Simpson, Quantcast’s head of product for GDPR

One of the fears from GDPR critics is that the new consent requirements could prohibit advertisers from targeting and serving ads to online users, thereby threatening the ability of publishers to provide content without charge. 

“Consumer trust is critical to creating a sustainable model for both publishers and brands. That’s the aim of GDPR but, as with any new regulation, there’s the potential for unintended consequences,” Simpson said.

“We believe the best answer is to come together to develop a solution that works for everyone, giving consumers control of their data while also allowing publishers and advertisers to build sustainable businesses that support high quality content.”

Simpson and Quantcast welcome GDPR but believe the regulation alone won’t ensure a sustainable industry. She told Which-50 organisations should adopt a “privacy by design” approach beyond compliancy, and industry should also be collaborating to address problems.

“Aside from giving consumers more control over their privacy, [a holistic approach] will also facilitate better quality advertising, and better targeted messages and content, increasing the value of the internet for all.”

According to Simpson, awareness around the use of data is increasing, propelled by high profile scandals like Cambridge Analytica. As that awareness improves, a key challenge for Simpson and others in the industry is maintaining user trust.

An ADMA report in May revealed currently most consumers see little value in companies sharing their data, although most recognised data sharing is “part of the modern economy”.

“It’s up to us as an industry to make sure we’re doing the right thing when it comes to informing and empowering consumers,” Simpson said.

Recent events have demonstrated that there will be implications for companies that don’t do this.”

Watch this space

According to Simpson, the full effect of the regulation remains to be seen and ultimately it will be case law that establishes GDPR precedent and its impact on digital advertising.

However, GDPR means business as usual is “no longer an option”, Simpson says, and that includes Australian organisations, which would have a “head start” if domestic regulations tighten.

“While there is a strong policy in place with the Australian Privacy Act, companies still need to be prepared in case the legislation is also passed in this market or throughout the Asia-Pacific,” Simpson said.

GDPR cases kicked off on day one of enforcement when Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems wasted little time in filing suits against Google and Facebook, arguing the tech giants were “coercing” users into providing consent.

One billion consent choices

Coercion aside, users do appear to be providing consent to advertisers, as required by GDPR.

In preparation for GDPR, Quantcast developed a free Consent Management Platform (CMP) – Quantcast Choice. The platform allows for the collection and communication of user consent for cookies. So far, Choice is recording a 90 per cent consent rate and just five to seven per cent of users are clicking through to explore the details of their consent. Simpson says CMPs offer all parties more control in a “post-GDPR world”.

“CMPs enable publishers and advertisers to acquire and communicate express consumer consent for the use of cookies and to transmit this signal across the ecosystem. This applies not just to delivering advertising but for any website functionality that relies on cookies or similar technology for data collection and processing,” Simpson said.

“Quantcast Choice enables publishers and marketers to give consumers control over how and when they share their data through a clear, unambiguous, opt-in choice.”

According to Quantcast, 10,000 domains have deployed their CMP so far and in July it enabled its one billionth consumer consent choice. Choice is the top choice for IAB endorsed CMPs, according to analysis from adzerk.

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