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Balancing Consumer Privacy and Digital Experiences with Anthony Katsur of IAB Tech Lab

Re-establishing trust – supporting the consumers’ definition of consent, privacy, and data security

The internet has become essential in our everyday life. If we are looking for something — we Google it. Once we Google it, we see it on every web page we visit. It’s in the form of an ad that keeps following us until we buy it or until we ask ourselves, “What’s going on?”

The truth is that we inadvertently give permission to advertisers to collect our data and then use it for their marketing campaigns. Our personal data helps advertisers craft unique ads according to our interests and search habits, thus enhancing user experience.

But do we, as consumers, see that as good or bad?

According to Anthony “Tony” Katsur, CEO of IAB Tech Lab, it’s important to establish a perfect balance between respecting consumers’ privacy and delivering an optimal online consumer experience. After all, we shouldn’t forget that targeting and advertising are the “lifeblood of the internet and our experiences.”

“We have to protect consumer privacy and listen to government regulators but, at the same time, maintain some form of addressability. And that’s the balance. I don’t think you can just throw out targeting or attribution,” suggests Tony.

At the end of the day, trust plays the most vital role in this whole story. Besides consumers who don’t trust advertisers or companies claiming that consumers’ private information is used solely for marketing, the data industry, in general, has trust issues. And according to Tony, they can be resolved by working with governments around the world and putting together the right frameworks and technology that support data security.

In this episode of Identity Revolution, Cory Davis welcomes Tony Katsur, who’s passionate about the data industry where he’s spent over 25 years. Prior to joining IAB Tech Lab, Tony worked at some of the most reputable companies — including Nextar, Sonobi, and Rubicon Project — in the AdTech and media fields.

IAB Tech Lab: R&D Consortium That Fights for Consumer Privacy

Tony Katsur is passionate about the data industry, which motivates him to resolve the most common challenges faced by companies in this field. Moreover, that’s one of the reasons he decided to join IAB Tech Lab, where he’s been the CEO for eight months.

“One of the reasons I took the role was because there are big problems, big challenges, and big opportunities for IAB Tech Lab to address for the industry. And I remain passionate about this industry — it’s put food on my table for 25 years,” says Tony.

Additionally, the company’s goals and missions align with Tony’s perspective. Namely, IAB Tech Lab focuses on delivering viable solutions for data privacy, consumer privacy, brand safety, and ad fraud — the burning issues of modern society.

“We are the global technical standard-setting body for the digital advertising ecosystem. We partnered with IABs and other trade organizations around the globe. We have over 3,000 participants across over 20 working groups. And those working groups run everything from privacy and identity to addressability,” explains Tony.

While their job is to develop privacy standards for organizations, IAB Tech Lab teams don’t consider themselves the internet police and don’t require others to adopt their standards unless they’re really valuable.

Consumer Privacy or Consumer Experience: Can We Have Both?

Consumers want to be sure that their privacy is protected while they’re exploring the internet. But will they really enjoy the web if their information is 100% private?

Websites collect our data (via cookies for example) that we generally have to accept to proceed. The data is then sold to advertisers, who use it to create ads based on our behavior and, therefore, provide a more enhanced customer experience. According to Tony, one of the ways to overcome the privacy issue is to ask for the consumer’s consent.

“We need to grapple with consumer privacy and ensure that consumers are providing consent for the use of their data. […] But if you remove some of those things, that’s going to lead to a worse consumer experience. How are advertisers going to cap frequency without any form of an identifier? You’re just going to see the same ad over and over,” explains Tony.

However, it’s easier said than done. In an endless world like the internet, nothing goes as planned, and so we cannot expect consumer consent to make all the challenges go away.

Tony states, “Finding the balance between maintaining consumer privacy and getting consent in a way that’s clear and concise is very tricky. […] It’s like the fine print on a car rental contract. Who’s really reading that?”

Well, maybe we should.

The Future of Data Privacy: Should We Expect Improvements?

The data industry already has a lot on its plate, mainly in regard to data privacy. But when it comes to its future, there are some optimistic predictions.

“I think we’re going to see more governance and more regulations on how data is used. I think we’re going to see clearer definitions of consent. The definitions of consent and privacy are going to remain regional issues over the next several years,” confirms Tony.

Tony also announced the development of the Global Privacy Program, whose goal is to manage consumer consent across different regions. The main reason IAB Tech Lab decided to move forward with this project is that things around privacy will get harder, not easier.

“We call it the Global Privacy Platform, and it’s about how you manage consent across these different regions. A lot of our customers are global media companies and global brands, and they operate across these markets. So, providing a holistic framework to be able to manage consent and privacy in those markets is something that we’re actively working towards,” explains Tony.

Note: This is based on an episode of Identity Revolution, Infutor’s podcast featuring data-driven experts discussing all things marketing, analytics, and identity. We take a deep dive into industry trends, strategies, and the future of data technology.

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