International coalition joins the call to ban ‘surveillance advertising’

An international coalition of consumer protection, digital and civil rights organizations and data protection experts has added its voice to growing calls for a ban on what’s been billed as “surveillance-based advertising”.

The objection is to a form of digital advertising that relies upon a massive apparatus of background data processing which sucks in information about individuals, as they browse and use services, to create profiles which are used to determine which ads to serve (via multi-participant processes like the high speed auctions known as real-time bidding).

The EU’s lead data protection supervisor previously called for a ban on targeted advertising which relies upon pervasive tracking — warning over a multitude of associated rights risks.

Last fall the EU parliament also urged tighter rules on behavioral ads.

Back in March, a US coalition of privacy, consumer, competition and civil rights groups also took collective aim at microtargeting. So pressure is growing on lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic to tackle exploitative adtech as consensus builds over the damage associated with mass surveillance-based manipulation.

At the same time, momentum is clearly building for pro-privacy consumer tech and services — showing the rising store being placed by users and innovators on business models that respect people’s data.

The growing uptake of such services underlines how alternative, rights-respecting digital business models are not only possible (and accessible, with many freemium offerings) but increasingly popular.

In an open letter addressing EU and US policymakers, the international coalition — which is comprised of 55 organizations and more than 20 experts including groups like Privacy International, the Open Rights Group, the Center for Digital Democracy, the New Economics Foundation, Beuc, Edri and Fairplay — urges legislative action, calling for a ban on ads that rely on “systematic commercial surveillance” of Internet users in order to serve what Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg likes, euphemistically, to refer to as ‘relevant ads’.

The problem with Zuckerberg’s (self-serving) framing is that, as the coalition points out, the vast majority of consumers don’t actually want to be spied upon to be served with these creepy ads.

Any claimed ‘relevance’ is irrelevant to consumers who experience ad-stalking as creepy and unpleasant. (And just imagine how the average Internet user would feel if they could peek behind the adtech curtain — and see the vast databases where people are profiled at scale so their attention can be sliced and diced for commercial interests and sold to the highest bidder).

The coalition points to a report examining consumer attitudes to surveillance-based advertising, prepared by one of the letter’s signatories (the Norwegian Consumer Council; NCC), which found that only one in ten people are positive about commercial actors collecting information about them online — and only one in five think ads based on personal information are okay.

A full third of respondents to the survey were “very negative” about microtargeted ads — while almost half think advertisers should not be able to target ads based on any form of personal information.

The report also highlights a sense of impotence among consumers when they go online, with six out of ten respondents feeling that they have no choice but to give up information about themselves.

That finding should be particularly concerning for EU policymakers as the bloc’s data protection framework is supposed to provide citizens with a suite of rights related to their personal data that should protect them against being strong-armed to hand over info — including stipulating that if a data controller intends to rely on user consent to process data then consent must be informed, specific and freely given; it can’t be stolen, strong-armed or sneaked through using dark patterns. (Although that remains all too often the case.)

Forced consent is not legal under EU law — yet, per the NCC’s European survey, a majority of respondents feel they have no choice but to be creeped on when they use the Internet.

That in turn points to an ongoing EU enforcement failure over major adtech-related complaints, scores of which have been filed in recent years under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) — some of which are now over three years old (yet still haven’t resulted in any action against rule-breakers).

Over the past couple of years EU lawmakers have acknowledged problems with patchy GDPR enforcement — and it’s interesting to note that the Commission suggested some alternative enforcement structures in its recent digital regulation proposals, such as for oversight of very large online platforms in the Digital Services Act (DSA).

In the letter, the coalition suggests the DSA as the ideal legislative vehicle to contain a ban on surveillance-based ads.

Negotiations to shape a final proposal which EU institutions will need to vote on remain ongoing — but it’s possible the EU parliament could pick up the baton to push for a ban on surveillance ads. It has the power to amend the Commission’s legislative proposals and its approval is needed for draft laws to be adopted. So there’s plenty still to play for.

“In the US, we urge legislators to enact comprehensive privacy legislation,” the coalition adds.

The coalition is backing up its call for a ban on surveillance-based advertising with another report (also by the NCC) which lays out the case against microtargeting — summarizing the raft of concerns that have come to be attached to manipulative ads as awareness of the adtech industry’s vast, background people-profiling and data trading has grown.

Listed concerns not only focus on how privacy-stripping practices are horrible for individual consumers (enabling the manipulation, discrimination and exploitation of individuals and vulnerable groups) but also flag the damage to digital competition as a result of adtech platforms and data brokers intermediating and cannibalizing publishers’ revenues — eroding, for example, the ability of professional journalism to sustain itself and creating the conditions where ad fraud has been able to flourish.

Another contention is that the overall health of democratic societies is put at risk by surveillance-based advertising — as the apparatus and incentives fuel the amplification of misinformation and create security risks, and even national security risks. (Strong and independent journalism is also, of course, a core plank of a healthy democracy.)

“This harms consumers and businesses, and can undermine the cornerstones of democracy,” the coalition warns.

“Although we recognize that advertising is an important source of revenue for content creators and publishers online, this does not justify the massive commercial surveillance systems set up in attempts to ‘show the right ad to the right people’,” the letter goes on. “Other forms of advertising technologies exist, which do not depend on spying on consumers, and cases have shown that such alternative models can be implemented without significantly affecting revenue.

“There is no fair trade-off in the current surveillance-based advertising system. We encourage you to take a stand and consider a ban of surveillance-based advertising as part of the Digital Services Act in the EU, and the for U.S. to enact a long overdue federal privacy law.”

The letter is just the latest salvo against ‘toxic adtech’. And advertising giants like Facebook and Google have — for several years now — seen the pro-privacy writing on the wall.

Hence Facebook’s claimed ‘pivot to privacy‘; its plan to lock in its first party data advantage (by merging the infrastructure of different messaging products); and its keen interest in crypto.

It’s also why Google has been working on a stack of alternative adtech that it wants to replace third party tracking cookies. Although its proposed replacement — the so-called ‘Privacy Sandbox‘ — would still enable groups of Internet users to be opaquely clustered by its algorithms in ‘interest’ buckets for ad targeting purposes which still doesn’t look great for Internet users’ rights either. (And concerns have been raised on the competition front too.)

Where its ‘Sandbox’ proposal is concerned, Google may well be factoring in the possibility of legislation that outlaws — or, at least, more tightly controls — microtargeting. And it’s therefore trying to race ahead with developing alternative adtech that would have much the same targeting potency (maintaining its market power) but, by swapping out individuals for cohorts of web users, could potentially sidestep a ban on ‘microtargeting’ technicalities.

Legislators addressing this issue will therefore need to be smart in how they draft any laws intended to tackle the damage caused by surveillance-based advertising.

Certainly they will if they want to prevent the same old small- and large-scale manipulation abuses from being perpetuated.

The NCC’s report points to what it dubs as “good alternatives” for digital advertising models which don’t depend on the systematic surveillance of consumers to function. And which — it also argues — provide advertisers and publishers with “more oversight and control over where ads are displayed and which ads are being shown”.

The problem of ad fraud is certainly massively underreported. But, well, it’s instructive to recall how often Facebook has had to ‘fess up to problems with self reported ad metrics

“It is possible to sell advertising space without basing it on intimate details about consumers. Solutions already exist to show ads in relevant contexts, or where consumers self-report what ads they want to see,” the NCC’s director of digital policy, Finn Myrstad, noted in a statement.

“A ban on surveillance-based advertising would also pave the way for a more transparent advertising marketplace, diminishing the need to share large parts of ad revenue with third parties such as data brokers. A level playing field would contribute to giving advertisers and content providers more control, and keep a larger share of the revenue.”

 

#adtech, #advertising-tech, #beuc, #center-for-digital-democracy, #data-controller, #data-protection, #digital-advertising, #europe, #european-union, #facebook, #general-data-protection-regulation, #google, #human-rights, #mark-zuckerberg, #marketing, #norwegian-consumer-council, #online-advertising, #open-rights-group, #privacy, #privacy-international, #real-time-bidding, #social-issues, #targeted-advertising, #tc, #united-states

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Google Facing Fresh E.U. Inquiry Over Ad Technology

The bloc’s investigation, which takes aim at the heart of Google’s business model, is part of a push to regulate the world’s largest technology companies.

#advertising-and-marketing, #antitrust-laws-and-competition-issues, #computers-and-the-internet, #europe, #european-commission, #european-union, #google-inc, #online-advertising

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EU is now investigating Google’s adtech over antitrust concerns

EU antitrust authorities are finally taking a broad and deep look into Google’s adtech stack and role in the online ad market — confirming today that they’ve opened a formal investigation.

Google has already been subject to three major EU antitrust enforcements over the past five years — against Google Shopping (2017), Android (2018) and AdSense (2019). But the European Commission has, until now, avoided officially wading into the broader issue of its role in the adtech supply chain. (The AdSense investigation focused on Google’s search ad brokering business, though Google claims the latest probe represents that next stage of that 2019 enquiry, rather than stemming from a new complaint).

The Commission said that the new Google antitrust investigation will assess whether it has violated EU competition rules by “favouring its own online display advertising technology services in the so called ‘ad tech’ supply chain, to the detriment of competing providers of advertising technology services, advertisers and online publishers”.

Display advertising spending in the EU in 2019 was estimated to be approximately €20BN, per the Commission.

“The formal investigation will notably examine whether Google is distorting competition by restricting access by third parties to user data for advertising purposes on websites and apps, while reserving such data for its own use,” it added in a press release.

Earlier this month, France’s competition watchdog fined Google $268M in a case related to self-preferencing within the adtech market — which the watchdog found constituted an abuse by Google of a dominant position for ad servers for website publishers and mobile apps.

In that instance Google sought a settlement — proposing a number of binding interoperability agreements which the watchdog accepted. So it remains to be seen whether the tech giant may seek to push for a similar outcome at the EU level.

There is one cautionary signal in that respect in the Commission’s press release which makes a point of flagging up EU data protection rules — and highlighting the need to take into account the protection of “user privacy”.

That’s an interesting side-note for the EU’s antitrust division to include, given some of the criticism that France’s Google adtech settlement has attracted — for risking cementing abusive user exploitation (in the form of adtech privacy violations) into the sought for online advertising market rebalancing.

Or as Cory Doctorow neatly explains it in this Twitter thread: “The last thing we want is competition in practices that harm the public.”

Aka, unless competition authorities wise up to the data abuses being perpetuated by dominant tech platforms — such as through enlightened competition authorities engaging in close joint-working with privacy regulators (in the EU this is, at least, possible since there’s regulation in both areas) — there’s a very real risk that antitrust enforcement against Big (ad)Tech could simply supercharge the user-hostile privacy abuses that surveillance giants have only been able to get away with because of their market muscle.

So, tl;dr, ill-thought through antitrust enforcement actually risks further eroding web users’ rights… and that would indeed be a terrible outcome. (Unless you’re Google; then it would represent successfully playing one regulator off against another at the expense of users.)

The need for competition and privacy regulators to work together to purge Big Tech market abuses has become an active debate in Europe — where a few pioneering regulators (like German’s FCO) are ahead of the pack.

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) also recently put out a joint statement — laying out their conviction that antitrust and data protection regulators must work together to foster a thriving digital economy that’s healthy across all dimensions — i.e. for competitors, yes, but also for consumers.

A recent CMA proposed settlement related to Google’s planned replacement for tracking cookies — aka ‘Privacy Sandbox’, which has also been the target of antitrust complaints by publishers — was notable in baking in privacy commitments and data protection oversight by the ICO in addition to the CMA carrying out its competition enforcement role.

It’s fair to say that the European Commission has lagged behind such pioneers in appreciating the need for synergistic regulatory joint-working, with the EU’s antitrust chief roundly ignoring — for example — calls to block Google’s acquisition of Fitbit over the data advantage it would entrench, in favor of accepting a few ‘concessions’ to waive the deal through.

So it’s interesting to see the EU’s antitrust division here and now — at the very least — virtue signalling an awareness of the problem of regional regulators approaching competition and privacy as if they exist in firewalled silos.

Whether this augurs the kind of enlightened regulatory joint working — to achieve holistically healthy and dynamic digital markets — which will certainly be essential if the EU is to effectively grapple with surveillance capitalism very much remains to be seen. But we can at least say that the inclusion of the below statement in an EU antitrust division press release represents a change of tone (and that, in itself, looks like a step forward…):

“Competition law and data protection laws must work hand in hand to ensure that display advertising markets operate on a level playing field in which all market participants protect user privacy in the same manner.”

Returning to the specifics of the EU’s Google adtech probe, the Commission says it will be particularly examining:

  • The obligation to use Google’s services Display & Video 360 (‘DV360′) and/or Google Ads to purchase online display advertisements on YouTube.
  • The obligation to use Google Ad Manager to serve online display advertisements on YouTube, and potential restrictions placed by Google on the way in which services competing with Google Ad Manager are able to serve online display advertisements on YouTube.
  • The apparent favouring of Google’s ad exchange “AdX” by DV360 and/or Google Ads and the potential favouring of DV360 and/or Google Ads by AdX.
  • The restrictions placed by Google on the ability of third parties, such as advertisers, publishers or competing online display advertising intermediaries, to access data about user identity or user behaviour which is available to Google’s own advertising intermediation services, including the Doubleclick ID.
  • Google’s announced plans to prohibit the placement of third party ‘cookies’ on Chrome and replace them with the “Privacy Sandbox” set of tools, including the effects on online display advertising and online display advertising intermediation markets.
  • Google’s announced plans to stop making the advertising identifier available to third parties on Android smart mobile devices when a user opts out of personalised advertising, and the effects on online display advertising and online display advertising intermediation markets.

Commenting on the investigation in a statement, Commission EVP and competition chief, Margrethe Vestager, added:

“Online advertising services are at the heart of how Google and publishers monetise their online services. Google collects data to be used for targeted advertising purposes, it sells advertising space and also acts as an online advertising intermediary. So Google is present at almost all levels of the supply chain for online display advertising. We are concerned that Google has made it harder for rival online advertising services to compete in the so-called ad tech stack. A level playing field is of the essence for everyone in the supply chain. Fair competition is important — both for advertisers to reach consumers on publishers’ sites and for publishers to sell their space to advertisers, to generate revenues and funding for content. We will also be looking at Google’s policies on user tracking to make sure they are in line with fair competition.”

Contacted for comment on the Commission investigation, a Google spokesperson sent us this statement:

“Thousands of European businesses use our advertising products to reach new customers and fund their websites every single day. They choose them because they’re competitive and effective. We will continue to engage constructively with the European Commission to answer their questions and demonstrate the benefits of our products to European businesses and consumers.”

Google also claimed that publishers keep around 70% of the revenue when using its products — saying in some instances it can be more.

It also suggested that publishers and advertisers often use multiple technologies simultaneously, further claiming that it builds its own technologies to be interoperable with more than 700 rival platforms for advertisers and 80 rival platforms for publishers.

#adtech, #android, #antitrust, #competition-and-markets-authority, #cory-doctorow, #doubleclick, #europe, #european-commission, #european-union, #fitbit, #france, #google, #information-commissioners-office, #margrethe-vestager, #marketing, #mobile-devices, #online-advertising, #privacy-sandbox, #targeted-advertising, #tc, #united-kingdom

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Google’s Hidden Monopoly

The absence of stringent regulation has allowed the search giant to dominate the powerful market for online advertising. Here’s how to fix it.

#advertising-and-marketing, #alphabet-inc, #antitrust-laws-and-competition-issues, #computers-and-the-internet, #conflicts-of-interest, #doubleclick-inc, #gensler-gary-s, #google-inc, #jayapal-pramila, #law-and-legislation, #online-advertising, #regulation-and-deregulation-of-industry, #securities-and-exchange-commission, #texas

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5 tips for brands that want to succeed in the new era of influencer marketing

If I told you a decade ago that a spin bike would be a social community, you’d have had a good laugh. But that’s precisely what Peloton is: A spin bike with a social community where the instructors are the influencers.

Peloton is just one example of how social is being integrated into every aspect of the customer experience in an increasingly digital world. Whether it’s considering a new restaurant to check out, a movie to see or a product to buy, most people look at reviews before making a final decision. They want social proof as an indicator of quality and relevance.

Influencers are a natural byproduct of this desire for social validation, and as social permeates the customer journey, creators have become an essential source of validation and trust.

Influencers are a natural byproduct of this desire for social validation, and as social permeates the customer journey, creators have become an essential source of validation and trust. Indeed, social validation is what social platforms are built on, so it’s a significant component of how we derive relevance online — and the deeper integration of social is changing the dynamic between brands and digital creators.

The shifting economy of creator monetization

Brand sponsorships are the holy grail for creators hoping to monetize their online influence. According to an eMarketer report, brand partnerships are still the No. 1 source of revenue for most digital creators.

However, digital creators have a lot more monetization options to choose from, thanks to Patreon, affiliate platforms, paid content platforms and platform revenue sharing, making it easier to earn a living without relying so heavily on brand sponsorships.


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As a result, creators are diversifying their revenue streams, which, for some creators, allows them to be more selective about the brands they work with. What’s more, creators aren’t reliant on just one channel or one form of revenue.

YouTube creators probably have the most diversified revenue, often combining brand sponsorships, subscription models, affiliate deals, tipping/donations, their line of branded products and revenue share. However, it’s important to note that not all monetization options apply to every creator. But with so many options to choose from, making a living as a digital creator is more accessible than ever.

Here are a few of the ways online creators can monetize their content:

Ad revenue sharing: Advertising is the most traditional form of revenue for online creators. With this model, ads are injected into and around the creator’s content, and they make a certain percentage of revenue based on impressions. However, the revenue split can vary based on the platform, and some platforms have a specific threshold creators must hit before they can participate in ad revenue sharing.

Affiliate marketing: Similar to advertising or a brand sponsorship, affiliate marketing is an agreement for a share of revenue based on products sold. This kind of arrangement generally works best when the creator has a blog, website or YouTube account. Affiliate links allow the influencer to proactively choose the products they want to talk about and earn from, rather than having to wait for a brand deal to come their way.

#advertising-tech, #celebrity, #column, #ec-column, #ec-marketing-tech, #influencer-marketing, #marketing, #online-advertising, #online-creators, #patreon, #social, #social-media, #tiktok, #youtube

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Instagram’s TikTok rival, Reels, rolls out ads worldwide

Instagram Reels are getting ads. The company announced today it’s launching ads in its short-form video platform and TikTok rival, Reels, to businesses and advertisers worldwide. The ads will be up to 30 seconds in length, like Reels themselves, and vertical in format, similar to ads found in Instagram Stories. Also like Reels, the new ads will loop, and people will be able to like, comment, and save them, the same as other Reels videos.

The company had previously tested Reels ads in select markets earlier this year, including India, Brazil, Germany, and Australia, then expanded those tests to Canada, France, the U.K. and the U.S. more recently. Early adopters of the new format have included brands like BMW, Nestlé (Nespresso), Louis Vuitton, Netflix, Uber, and others.

Instagram tells us the ads will appear in most places users view Reels content, including on the Reels tab, Reels in Stories, Reels in Explore, and Reels in your Instagram Feed, and will appear in between individual Reels posted by users. However, in order to be served a Reels ad, the user first needs to be in the immersive, full-screen Reels viewer.

Image Credits: Instagram

The company couldn’t say how often a user might see a Reels ad, noting that the number of ads a viewer may encounter will vary based on how they use Instagram. But the company is monitoring user sentiment around ads themselves, and the overall commercially of Reels, it says.

Like Instagram’s other advertising products, Reels ads will launch with an auction-based model. But so far, Instagram is declining to share any sort of performance metrics around how those ads are doing, based on tests. Nor is it yet offering advertisers any creator tools or templates that could help them get started with Reels ads. Instead, Instagram likey assumes advertisers already have creative assets on hand or know how to make them, because of Reels ads’ similarities to other vertical video ads found elsewhere, including on Instagram’s competitors.

While vertical video has already shown the potential for driving consumers to e-commerce shopping sites, Instagram hasn’t yet taken advantage of Reels ads to drive users to its built-in Instagram Shops, though that seems like a natural next step as it attempts to tie the different parts of its app together.

But perhaps ahead of that step, Instagram needs to make Reels a more compelling destination — something other TikTok rivals, which now include both Snap and YouTube — have done by funding creator content directly. Instagram, meanwhile, had made offers to select TikTok stars directly.

The launch of Instagram Reels ads follows news of TikTok’s climbing ad prices. Bloomberg reported this month that TikTok is now asking for more than $1.4 million for a home page takeover ad in the U.S., as of the third quarter, which will jump to $1.8 million by Q4 and more than $2 million on a holiday. Though the company is still building its ads team and advertisers haven’t yet allocated large portions of their video budget to the app, that tends to follow user growth — and TikTok now has over 100 million monthly active users in the U.S.

Both apps, Instagram and TikTok, now have over a billion monthly active users on a global basis, though Reels is only a part of the larger Instagram platform. For comparison, Instagram Stories is used by some 500 million users, which demonstrates Instagram’s ability to drive traffic to different areas of its app. Instagram declined to share how many users Reels has as of today.

#advertising, #advertising-tech, #apps, #digital-marketing, #instagram, #instagram-reels, #mobile, #mobile-software, #online-advertising, #reels, #short-form-video, #social, #social-media-marketing, #tiktok, #vertical-video, #video, #video-hosting

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Adtech ‘data breach’ GDPR complaint is headed to court in EU

New York-based IAB Tech Labs, a standards body for the digital advertising industry, is being taken to court in Germany by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) in a piece of privacy litigation that’s targeted at the high speed online ad auction process known as real-time bidding (RTB).

While that may sound pretty obscure the case essentially loops in the entire ‘data industrial complex’ of adtech players, large and small, which make money by profiling Internet users and selling access to their attention — from giants like Google and Facebook to other household names (the ICCL’s PR also name-checks Amazon, AT&T, Twitter and Verizon, the latter being the parent company of TechCrunch — presumably because all participate in online ad auctions that can use RTB); as well as the smaller (typically non-household name) adtech entities and data brokers which also also involved in handling people’s data to run high velocity background auctions that target behavioral ads at web users.

The driving force behind the lawsuit is Dr Johnny Ryan, a former adtech insider turned whistleblower who’s now a senior fellow a the ICCL — and who has dubbed RTB the biggest data breach of all time.

He points to the IAB Tech Lab’s audience taxonomy documents which provide codes for what can be extremely sensitive information that’s being gathered about Internet users, based on their browsing activity, such as political affiliation, medical conditions, household income, or even whether they may be a parent to a special needs child.

The lawsuit contends that other industry documents vis-a-vis the ad auction system confirm there are no technical measures to limit what companies can do with people’s data, nor who they might pass it on to.

The lack of security inherent to the RTB process also means other entities not directly involved in the adtech bidding chain could potentially intercept people’s information — when it should, on the contrary, be being protected from unauthorized access, per EU law…

Ryan and others have been filing formal complaints against RTB security issue for years, arguing the system breaches a core principle of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) — which requires that personal data be “processed in a manner that ensures appropriate security… including protection against unauthorised or unlawful processing and against accidental loss” — and which, they contend, simply isn’t possible given how RTB functions.

The problem is that Europe’s data protection agencies have failed to act. Which is why Ryan, via the ICCL, has decided to take the more direct route of filing a lawsuit.

“There aren’t many DPAs around the union that haven’t received evidence of what I think is the biggest data breach of all time but it started with the UK and Ireland — neither of which took, I think it’s fair to say, any action. They both said they were doing things but nothing has changed,” he tells TechCrunch, explaining why he’s decided to take the step of litigating.

“I want to take the most efficient route to protection people’s rights around data,” he adds.

Per Ryan, the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) has still not sent a statement of issues relating to the RTB complaint he lodged with them back in 2018 — so years later. In May 2019 the DPC did announce it was opening a formal investigation into Google’s adtech, following the RTB complaints, but the case remains open and unresolved. (We’ve contacted the DPC with questions about its progress on the investigation and will update with any response.)

Since the GDPR came into application in Europe in May 2018 there has been growth in privacy lawsuits  — including class action style suits — so litigation funders may be spying an opportunity to cash in on the growing enforcement gap left by resource-strapped and, well, risk-averse data protection regulators.

A similar complaint about RTB lodged with the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) also led to a lawsuit being filed last year — albeit in that case it was against the watchdog itself for failing to take any action. (The ICO’s last missive to the adtech industry told it to — uhhhh — expect audits.)

“The GDPR was supposed to create a situation where the average person does not need to wear a tin-foil hat, they do not need to be paranoid or take action to become well informed. Instead, supervisory authorities protect them. And these supervisory authorities — paid for by the tax payer — have very strong powers. They can gain admission to any documents and any premises. It’s not about fines I don’t think, just. They can tell the biggest most powerful companies in the world to stop doing what they’re doing with our data. That’s the ultimate power,” says Ryan. “So GDPR sets up these guardians — these potentially very empowered guardians — but they’ve not used those powers… That’s why we’re acting.”

“I do wish that I’d litigated years ago,” he adds. “There’s lots of reasons why I didn’t do that — I do wish, though, that this litigation was unnecessary because supervisory authorities protected me and you. But they didn’t. So now, as Irish politics like to say in the middle of a crisis, we are where we are. But this is — hopefully — several nails in the coffin [of RTB’s use of personal data].”

The lawsuit has been filed in Germany as Ryan says they’ve been able to establish that IAB Tech Labs — which is NY-based and has no official establishment in Europe — has representation (a consultancy it hired) that’s based in the country. Hence they believe there is a clear route to litigate the case at the Landgerichte, Hamburg.

While Ryan has been indefatigably sounding the alarm about RTB for years he’s prepared to clock up more mileage going direct through the courts to see the natter through.

And to keep hammering home his message to the adtech industry that it must clean up its act and that recent attempts to maintain the privacy-hostile status quo — by trying to rebrand and repackage the same old data shuffle under shiny new claims of ‘privacy’ and ‘responsibility’ — simply won’t wash. So the message is really: Reform or die.

“This may very well end up at the ECJ [European Court of Justice]. And that would take a few years but long before this ends up at the ECJ I think it’ll be clear to the industry now that it’s time to reform,” he adds.

IAB Tech Labs has been contacted for comment on the ICCL’s lawsuit.

Ryan is by no means the only person sounding the alarm over adtech. Last year the European Parliament called for tighter controls on behavioral ads to be baked into reforms of the region’s digital rules — calling for regulation to favor less intrusive, contextual forms of advertising which do not rely on mass surveillance of Internet users.

While even Google has said it wants to depreciate support for tracking cookies in favor of a new stack of technology proposals that it dubs ‘Privacy Sandbox’ (although its proposed alternative — targeting groups of Internet users based on interests derived from tracking their browsing habits — has been criticized as potentially amplifying problems of predatory and exploitative ad targeting, so may not represent a truly clean break with the rights-hostile adtech status quo).

The IAB is also facing another major privacy law challenge in Europe — where complaints against a widely used framework it designed for websites to obtain Internet users’ consent to being tracked for ads online led to scrutiny by Belgium’s data protection agency.

Last year its investigatory division found that the IAB Europe’s Transparency and Consent Framework (TCF) fails to meet the required standards of data protection under the GDPR.

The case went in front of the litigation chamber last week. A verdict — and any enforcement action by the Belgian DPA over the IAB Europe’s TCF — remains pending.

#adtech, #advertising-tech, #amazon, #articles, #att, #computing, #data-protection, #europe, #european-court-of-justice, #european-union, #facebook, #general-data-protection-regulation, #germany, #hamburg, #information-commissioners-office, #ireland, #johnny-ryan, #new-york, #online-advertising, #privacy, #real-time-bidding, #techcrunch, #terms-of-service, #twitter, #united-kingdom, #verizon, #world-wide-web

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The demise of browser cookies could create a Golden Age of digital marketing

Depending on whom you ask, the digital advertising industry is either counting down the minutes to doomsday or entering an exciting new era for engaging with consumers. Apple’s iOS 14.5 update — which effectively ends automatic opt-ins to online tracking and data collection — is finally at hand, and Google aims to phase out third-party cookies next year.

The future could see a wave of innovations that help consumers opt out of data collection. So it’s up to the advertising industry to find ways to get these educated, empowered consumers to opt back in.

Whether these changes set digital advertisers back 15 years or pave the way to more fruitful interactions with customers remains to be seen. But one thing is clear: This is big. Allowing users to decide what browsing data can be collected, by whom and under what circumstances is a move that will change the direction of the advertising industry.

But the new direction does not have to lead digital marketers to oblivion, failure or poverty. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

With a few changes to short-term strategy — and a longer-term plan that takes into account the fact that people are awakening to the value of their online data — advertisers can form a new type of relationship with consumers. It can be built upon trust and open exchange of value.

It’s up to advertisers to grasp, accept and reap the benefits of the upcoming changes. Because with iOS 14.5, cookie deprecation, and regulations like GDPR and CCPA, one era is ending and a new one is beginning. There’s a new seat at the table in the great bargaining session between advertisers and technology giants. It’s occupied — for the first time — by the user.

The short-term strategy

Advertisers can weather big changes in the short term by implementing several steps.

For starters, developers should update their application SDKs to support Apple’s new SKAdNetwork solution and then verify attribution across each channel. For example, after SDK updates, verify that the number of installs reported from your Facebook Ads matches up to the number of installs you’re seeing reported in the App Store developer console or your preferred analytics provider.


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This can become more complicated the more channels you’re on, but it is important to verify all of your advertising channels’ reporting. Also important is setting your conversion value, because this is the key to getting granular information on your ad campaigns and ensuring the right entity controls the flow of information.

#advertising-tech, #column, #digital-marketing, #ec-column, #ec-marketing-tech, #facebook, #google, #marketing, #online-advertising, #online-tracking, #privacy, #social-media, #targeted-advertising, #tc

0

What Weird Games Lurk on Your Kid’s Tablet?

Huge Kid Cesarean Birth in Hospital? Toddler Foot Doctor?

#caesarean-section, #computer-and-video-games, #content-type-service, #online-advertising, #pregnancy-and-childbirth

0

Google won’t end support for tracking cookies unless UK’s competition watchdog agrees

Well this is big. The UK’s competition regulator looks set to get an emergency brake that will allow it to stop Google ending support for third party cookies, a technology that’s currently used for targeting online ads, if it believes competition would be harmed by the depreciation going ahead.

The development follows an investigation opened by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) into Google’s self-styled ‘Privacy Sandbox’ earlier this year.

The regulator will have the power to order a standstill of at least 60 days on any move by Google to remove support for cookies from Chrome if it accepts a set of legally binding commitments the latter has offered — and which the regulator has today issued a notification of intention to accept.

The CMA could also reopen a fuller investigation if it’s not happy with how things are looking at the point it orders any standstill to stop Google crushing tracking cookies.

It follows that the watchdog could also block Google’s wider ‘Privacy Sandbox’ technology transition entirely — if it decides the shift cannot be done in a way that doesn’t harm competition. However the CMA said today it takes the “provisional” view that the set of commitments Google has offered will address competition concerns related to its proposals.

It’s now opened a consultation to see if the industry agrees — with the feedback line open until July 8.

Commenting in a statement, Andrea Coscelli, the CMA’s chief executive, said:

“The emergence of tech giants such as Google has presented competition authorities around the world with new challenges that require a new approach.

“That’s why the CMA is taking a leading role in setting out how we can work with the most powerful tech firms to shape their behaviour and protect competition to the benefit of consumers.

“If accepted, the commitments we have obtained from Google become legally binding, promoting competition in digital markets, helping to protect the ability of online publishers to raise money through advertising and safeguarding users’ privacy.”

In a blog post sketching what it’s pledged — under three broad headlines of ‘Consultation and collaboration’; ‘No data advertising advantage for Google products’; and ‘No self-preferencing’ — Google writes that if the CMA accepts its commitments it will “apply them globally”, making the UK’s intervention potentially hugely significant.

It’s perhaps one slightly unexpected twist of Brexit that it’s put the UK in a position to be taking key decisions about the rules for global digital advertising. (The European Union is also working on new rules for how platform giants can operate but the CMA’s intervention on Privacy Sandbox does not yet have a direct equivalent in Brussels.)

That Google is choosing to offer to turn a UK competition intervention into a global commitment is itself very interesting. It may be there in part as an added sweetener — nudging the CMA to accept the offer so it can feel like a global standard setter.

At the same time, businesses do love operational certainty. So if Google can hash out a set of rules that are accepted by one (fairly) major market, because they’ve been co-designed with national oversight bodies, and then scale those rules everywhere it may create a shortcut path to avoiding any more regulator-enforced bumps in the future.

So Google may see this as a smoother path toward the sought for transition for its adtech business to a post-cookie future. Of course it also wants to avoid being ordered to stop entirely.

More broadly, engaging with the fast-paced UK regulator could be a strategy for Google to try to surf over the political deadlocks and risks which can characterize discussions on digital regulation in other markets (especially its home turf of the U.S. — where there has been a growing drumbeat of calls to break up tech giants; and where Google specifically now faces a number of antitrust investigations).

The outcome it may be hoping for is being able to point to regulator-stamped ‘compliance’ — in order that it can claim it as evidence there’s no need for its ad empire to be broken up.

Google’s offering of commitments also signifies that regulators who move fastest to tackle the power of tech giants will be the ones helping to define and set the standards and conditions that apply for web users everywhere. At least unless or until any more radical interventions rain down on big tech.

What is Privacy Sandbox?

Privacy Sandbox is a complex stack of interlocking technology proposals for replacing current ad tracking methods (which are widely seen as horrible for user privacy) with alternative infrastructure that Google claims will be better for individual privacy and also still allow the adtech and publishing industries to generate (it claims much the same) revenue by targeting ads at cohorts of web users — who will be put into ‘interest buckets’ based on what they look at online.

The full details of the proposals (which include components like FLoCs, aka Google’s proposed new ad ID based on federated learning of cohorts; and Fledge/Turtledove, Google’s suggested new ad delivery technology) have not yet been set in stone.

Nonetheless, Google announced in January 2020 that it intended to end support for third party cookies within two years — so that rather nippy timeframe has likely concentrated opposition, with pushback coming from the adtech industry and (some) publishers who are concerned it will have a major impact on their ad revenues when individual-level ad targeting goes away.

The CMA began to look into Google’s planned depreciating of tracking cookies after complaints that the transition to a new infrastructure of Google’s devising will merely increase Google’s market power — by locking down third parties’ ability to track Internet users for ad targeting while leaving Google with a high dimension view of what people get up to online as a result of its expansive access to first party data (gleaned through its dominance for consumer web services).

The executive summary of today’s CMA notice lists its concerns that, without proper regulatory oversight, Privacy Sandbox might:

  • distort competition in the market for the supply of ad inventory and in the market for the supply of ad tech services, by restricting the functionality associated with user tracking for third parties while retaining this functionality for Google;
  • distort competition by the self-preferencing of Google’s own advertising products and services and owned and operated ad inventory; and
  • allow Google to exploit its apparent dominant position by denying Chrome web users substantial choice in terms of whether and how their personal data is used for the purpose of targeting and delivering advertising to them.

At the same time, privacy concerns around the ad tracking and targeting of Internet users are undoubtedly putting pressure on Google to retool Chrome (which ofc dominates web browser marketshare) — given that other web browsers have been stepping up efforts to protect their users from online surveillance by doing stuff like blocking trackers for years.

Web users hate creepy ads — which is why they’ve been turning to ad blockers in droves. Numerous major data scandals have also increased awareness of privacy and security. And — in Europe and elsewhere — digital privacy regulations have been toughened up or introduced in recent years. So the line of ‘what’s acceptable’ for ad businesses to do online has been shifting.

But the key issue here is how privacy and competition regulation interacts — and potentially conflicts — with the very salient risk that ill-thought through and overly blunt competition interventions could essentially lock in privacy abuses of web users (as a result of a legacy of weak enforcement around online privacy, which allowed for rampant, consent-less ad tracking and targeting of Internet users to develop and thrive in the first place).

Poor privacy enforcement coupled with banhammer-wielding competition regulators does not look like a good recipe for protecting web users’ rights.

However there is cautious reason for optimism here.

Last month the CMA and the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) issued a joint statement in which they discussed the importance of having competition and data protection in digital markets — citing the CMA’s Google Privacy Sandbox probe as a good example of a case that requires nuanced joint working.

Or, as they put it then: “The CMA and the ICO are working collaboratively in their engagement with Google and other market participants to build a common understanding of Google’s proposals, and to ensure that both privacy and competition concerns can be addressed as the proposals are developed in more detail.”

Although the ICO’s record on enforcement against rights-trampling adtech is, well, non-existent. So its preference for regulatory inaction in the face of adtech industry lobbying should off-set any quantum of optimism derived from the bald fact of the UK’s privacy and competition regulators’ ‘joint working’.

(The CMA, by contrast, has been very active in the digital space since gaining, post-Brexit, wider powers to pursue investigations. And in recent years took a deep dive look at competition in the digital ad market, so it’s armed with plenty of knowledge. It is also in the process of configuring a new unit that will oversee a pro-competition regime which the UK explicitly wants to clip the wings of big tech.)

What has Google committed to?

The CMA writes that Google has made “substantial and wide-ranging” commitments vis-a-vis Privacy Sandbox — which it says include:

  • A commitment to develop and implement the proposals in a way that avoids distortions to competition and the imposition of unfair terms on Chrome users. This includes a commitment to involve the CMA and the ICO in the development of the Proposals to ensure this objective is met.
  • Increased transparency from Google on how and when the proposals will be taken forward and on what basis they will be assessed. This includes a commitment to publicly disclose the results of tests of the effectiveness of alternative technologies.
  • Substantial limits on how Google will use and combine individual user data for the purposes of digital advertising after the removal of third-party cookies.
  • A commitment that Google will not discriminate against its rivals in favour of its own advertising and ad-tech businesses when designing or operating the alternatives to third-party cookies.
  • A standstill period of at least 60 days before Google proceeds with the removal of third party cookies giving the CMA the opportunity, if any outstanding concerns cannot be resolved with Google, to reopen its investigation and, if necessary, impose any interim measures necessary to avoid harm to competition.

Google also writes that: “Throughout this process, we will engage the CMA and the industry in an open, constructive and continuous dialogue. This includes proactively informing both the CMA and the wider ecosystem of timelines, changes and tests during the development of the Privacy Sandbox proposals, building on our transparent approach to date.”

“We will work with the CMA to resolve concerns and develop agreed parameters for the testing of new proposals, while the CMA will be getting direct input from the ICO,” it adds.

Google’s commitments cover a number of areas directly related to competition — such as self-preferencing, non-discrimination, and stipulations that it will not combine user data from specific sources that might give it an advantage vs third parties.

However privacy is also being explicitly baked into the competition consideration, here, per the CMA — which writes that the commitments will [emphasis ours]:

Establish the criteria that must be taken into account in designing, implementing and evaluating Google’s Proposals. These include the impact of the Privacy Sandbox Proposals on: privacy outcomes and compliance with data protection principles; competition in digital advertising and in particular the risk of distortion to competition between Google and other market participants; the ability of publishers to generate revenue from ad inventory; and user experience and control over the use of their data.

An ICO spokeswoman was also keen to point out that one of the first commitments obtained from Google under the CMA’s intervention “focuses on privacy and data protection”.

In a statement, the data watchdog added:

“The commitments obtained mark a significant moment in the assessment of the Privacy Sandbox proposals. They demonstrate that consumer rights in digital markets are best protected when competition and privacy are considered together.

“As we outlined in our recent joint statement with the CMA, we believe consumers benefit when their data is used lawfully and responsibly, and digital innovation and competition are supported. We are continuing to build upon our positive and close relationship with the CMA, to ensure that consumer interests are protected as we assess the proposals.”

This development in the CMA’s investigation raises plenty of questions, large and small — most pressingly over the future of key web infrastructure and what the changes being hashed out here between Google and UK regulators might mean for Internet users everywhere.

The really big issue is whether ‘co-design’ with oversight bodies is the best way to fix the market power imbalance flowing from a single tech giant being able to combine massive dominance in consumer digital services with duopoly dominance in adtech.

Others would say that breaking up Google’s consumer tech and Google’s adtech is the only way to fix the abuse — and eveything else is just fiddling while Rome burns.

Google, for instance, is still in charge of proposing the changes itself — regardless of how much pre-implementation consultation and tweaking goes on. It’s still steering the ship and there are plenty of people who believe that’s not an acceptable governance model for the open web.

But, for now at least, the CMA wants to try to fiddle.

It should be noted that, in parallel, the UK government and CMA are speccing out a wider pro-competition regime that could result in deeper interventions into how Google and other platform giants operate in the future. So more interventions are all but guaranteed.

For now, though, Google is probably feeling pretty happy for the opportunity to work with UK regulators. If it can pull oversight bodies deep down in the detail of the changes it wants to make that’s likely a far more comfortable spot for Mountain View vs being served with an order to break its business up — something the CMA has previously taken feedback on.

Google has been contacted with questions on its Privacy Sandbox commitments.

#ad-blocking, #advertising-tech, #competition-and-markets-authority, #digital-advertising, #europe, #google, #information-commissioners-office, #marketing, #online-advertising, #online-privacy, #policy, #privacy, #privacy-sandbox, #tc, #uk-government, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #web-browsers, #web-infrastructure

0

InfoSum outs an identity linking tool that’s exciting marketing firms like Experian

InfoSum, a startup which takes a federated approach to third party data enrichment, has launched a new product (called InfoSum Bridge) that it says significantly expands the customer identity linking capabilities of its platform.

“InfoSum Bridge incorporates multiple identity providers across every identity type — both online and offline, in any technical framework — including deterministic, probabilistic, and cohort-level matches,” it writes in a press release.

It’s also disclosing some early adopters of the product — naming data-for-ads and data-aggregator giants Merkle, MMA and Experian as dipping in.

Idea being they can continue to enrich (first party) data by being able to make linkages, via InfoSum’s layer, with other ‘trusted partners’ who may have gleaned more tidbits of info on those self-same users.

InfoSum says it has 50 enterprise customers using InfoSum Bridge at this point. The three companies it’s named in the release all play in the digital marketing space.

The 2016-founded startup (then called CognitiveLogic) sells customers a promise of ‘privacy-safe’ data enrichment run via a technical architecture that allows queries to be run — and insights gleaned — across multiple databases yet maintains each pot as a separate silo. This means the raw data isn’t being passed around between interested entities. 

Why is that important? Third party data collection is drying up, after one (thousand) too many privacy scandals in recent years — combing with the legal risk attached to background trading of people’s data as a result of data protection regimes like Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation.

That puts the spotlight squarely on first party data. However businesses whose models have been dependent on access to big data about people — i.e. being able to make scores of connections by joining up information on people from different databases/sources (aka profiling) — are unlikely to be content with relying purely on what they’ve been able to learn by themselves.

This is where InfoSum comes in, billing itself as a “neutral data collaboration platform”.

Companies that may have been accustomed to getting their hands on lashings of personal data in years past, as a result of rampant, industry-wide third party data collection (via technologies like tracking cookies) combined with (ehem) lax data governance — are having to cast around for alternatives. And that appears to be stoking InfoSum’s growth.

And on the marketing front, remember, third party cookies are in the process of going away as Google tightens that screw

“We are growing faster than Slack (at equivalent stage e.g. Series A->B) because we are the one solution that is replacing the old way of doing things,” founder Nick Halstead tells TechCrunch. “Experian, Liveramp, Axciom, TransUnion, they all offer solutions to take your data. InfoSum is offering the equivalent of the ‘Cisco router for customer data’ — we don’t own the data we are just selling boxes to make it all connect.”

“The announcement today — ‘InfoSum Bridge’ — is the next generation of building the ultimate network to ‘Bridge the industry chasm’ it has right now of 100’s of competing ID’s, technical solutions and identity types, bringing a infrastructure approach,” he adds.

We took a deep dive into InfoSum’s first product back in 2018 — when it was just offering early adopters a glimpse of the “art of the possible”, as it put it then.

Three+ years on it’s touting a significantly expansion of its pipeline, having baked in support for multiple ID vendors/types, as well as adding probabilistic capabilities (to do matching on users where there is no ID).

Per a spokesman: “InfoSum Bridge is an extension of our existing and previous infrastructure. It enables a significant expansion of both our customer identity linking, and the limits of what is possible for data collaboration in a secure and privacy-focused manner. This is a combination of new product enhancements and announcement of partnerships. We’ve built capabilities to support across all ID vendors and types but also probabilistic and support for those publishers with unauthenticated audiences.”

InfoSum bills its platform as “the future of identity connectivity”. Although, as Halstead notes, there is now growing competition for that concept, as the adtech industry scrambles to build out alternative tracking systems and ID services ahead of Google crushing their cookies for good.

But it’s essentially making a play to be the trusted, independent layer that can link them all.

Exactly what this technical wizardry means for Internet users’ privacy is difficult to say. If, for example, it continues to enable manipulative microtargeting that’s hardly going to sum to progress.

InfoSum has previously told us its approach is designed to avoid individuals being linked and identified via the matching — with, for exmaple, limits placed on the bin sizes. Although its platform is also configurable (which puts privacy levers in its customers hands). Plus there could be edge cases where overlapped datasets result in a 100% match for an individual. So a lot is unclear.

The security story looks cleaner, though.

If the data is properly managed by InfoSum (and it touts “comprehensive independent audits”, as well as pointing to the decentralized architecture as an advantage) that’s a big improvement on — at least — one alternative scenario of whole databases being passed around between businesses which may be (to put it politely) disinterested in securing people’s data themselves.

InfoSum’s PR includes the three canned quotes (below) from the trio of marketing industry users it’s disclosing today.

All of whom sound very happy indeed that they’ve found a way to keep their “data-driven” marketing alive while simultaneously getting to claim it’s “privacy-safe”…

John Lee, Global Chief Strategy Officer, Merkle: “The conversation around identity is continuing to be top of mind for marketers across the industry, and as the landscape rapidly changes, it’s essential that brands have avenues to work together using first-party identity and data in a privacy-safe way. The InfoSum Bridge solution provides our clients and partners a way to collaborate using their first-party data, resolved to Merkury IDs and data, with even greater freedom and confidence than with traditional clean room or safe haven approaches.”

Lou Paskalis, Chairman, MMA Global Media and Data Board: “As marketers struggle to better leverage their first-party data in the transition from the cookie era to the consent era, I would have expected more innovative solutions to emerge.  One bright spot is InfoSum, which offers a proprietary technology to connect data, yet never share that data. This is the most customer-friendly and compliant technology that I’ve seen that enables marketers to fully realize the true potential of their first party data. What InfoSum has devised is an elegant way to respect consumers’ privacy choices while enabling marketers to realize the full benefit of their first party data.”

Colin Grieves, Managing Director Experian: “At Experian we are committed to a culture of customer-centric data innovation, helping develop more meaningful and seamless connections between brands and their audiences. InfoSum Bridge gives us a scalable environment for secure, data connectivity and collaboration. Bridge is at the core of the Experian Match offering, which allows brands and publishers alike the ability to understand and engage the right consumers in the digital arena at scale, whilst safeguarding consumer data and privacy.”

Thing is, clever technical architecture that enables big data fuelled modelling and profiling of people to continue, via pattern matching to identify ‘lookalike’ customers who can (for example) be bucketed and targeted with ads, doesn’t actually sum to privacy as most people would understand it… But, for sure, impressive tech architecture guys.

The same issue attaches to FloCs, Google’s proposed replacement for tracking cookies — which also relies on federation (and which the EFF has branded a “terrible idea”, warning that such an approach actually risks amplifying predatory targeting).

The tenacity with which the marketing industry seeks to cling to microtargeting does at least underline why rights-focused regulatory oversight of adtech is going to be essential if we’re to stamp out systematic societal horrors like ads that scale bias by discriminating against protected groups, or the anti-democratic manipulation of voters that’s enabled by opaque targeting and hyper-targeted messaging, circumventing the necessary public scrutiny.

Tl;dr: Privacy is not just important for the individual. It’s a collective good. And keeping that collective commons safe from those who would seek to exploit it — for a quick buck or worse — is going to require a whole other type of oversight architecture.

#advertising-tech, #big-data, #data-protection, #digital-marketing, #europe, #experian, #google, #infosum, #liveramp, #marketing, #merkle, #mma, #nick-halstead, #online-advertising, #privacy, #targeted-advertising

0

France fines Google $268M for adtech abuses and gets interoperability commitments

France’s competition watchdog, L’Autorité de la concurrence, has fined Google up to €220 million (~$268M) in a case related to self-preferencing within the adtech market which the watchdog found constituted an abuse by Google of a dominant position for ad servers for website publishers and mobile apps.

L’Autorité began looking into Google’s adtech business following complaints from a number of French publishers.

Today it said Google had requested a settlement — and is “not disputing the facts of the case” — with the tech giant proposing certain ‘interoperability’ commitments that the regulator has accepted, and which will form a binding part of the decision.

The watchdog called the action a world first in probing Google’s complex algorithmic ad auctions.

Commenting in a statement, L’Autorité’s president, Isabelle de Silva, said: “The decision sanctioning Google has a very special meaning because it is the first decision in the world to look into complex algorithmic processes. Auctions through which online display advertising works. The investigation, carried out particularly quickly, revealed the processes by which Google, relying on its considerable dominant position on ad servers for sites and applications, was favored over its competitors on both ad servers and SSP platforms. These very serious practices penalized competition in the emerging online advertising market, and have enabled Google not only to preserve but also to increase its dominant position. This sanction and these commitments will make it possible to restore a level playing field for all players, and the ability of publishers to make the most of their advertising space. ”

At specific issue is preferential treatment Google granted to its own proprietary technologies — offered under the Google Ad Manager brand — on both the demand and supply sides; via the operation of its DFP ad server (which allows publishers of sites and applications to sell their spaces advertising), and its sales platform SSP AdX (which organizes the auction process allowing publishers to sell their ‘impressions’ or advertising inventories to advertisers), per the watchdog.

L’Autorité found that Google’s preferential treatment of its adtech harmed competitors and publishers.

Reached for comment, a Google spokeswoman referred us to this blog post discussing the settlement where Maria Gomri, a legal director for Google France, writes that it has “agreed on a set of commitments to make it easier for publishers to make use of data and use our tools with other ad technologies” — before detailing the steps it has pledged to take.

The publishing groups that made the original complaint against Google in France were News Corp Inc., the Le Figaro group and the Rossel La Voix group, although Le Figaro withdrew its referral last November — at the same time as it signed a content-licensing deal with Google, related to Google’s News Showcase product (a vehicle Google has spun up as legislators in different markets around the world have taken steps to force it to pay for some content reuse).

France’s competition watchdog had earlier ordered Google to negotiate with publishers over remuneration for reuse of their content, following the transposing into national law of updated, pan-EU copyright rules — which extend neighbouring rights to publishers’ news snippets. So the adtech giant’s operations remain under scrutiny on that front too.

Google agrees to interoperability changes

Google has agreed to improve the interoperability of Google Ad Manager services with third-party ad server and advertising space sales platform solutions, per L’Autorité, as well as agreeing to end provisions that favor itself.

“The practices in question are particularly serious because they penalized Google’s competitors in the SSP market and the publishers of sites and mobile applications,” it writes in a press release (translated from French with Google Translate). “Among these, the press groups — including those who were [the source] of the referral to the Authority — were affected even though their economic model is also strongly weakened by the decline in sales of paper subscriptions and the decline in associated advertising revenue.”

L’Autorité confirmed it has accepted Google’s commitments — and makes them binding in its decision. The commitments will be mandatory for a three year period, per the agreement.

The commitments Google has offered appear to speak to some operational details that have emerged via a Texas antitrust lawsuit also targeting Google’s adtech.

Earlier this year, documents surfaced via that suit which appeared to show the tech giant operated a secret program that used data from past bids in its digital ad exchange to allegedly give its own ad-buying system an advantage over competitors, per the WSJ — which reported that the so-called ‘Project Bernanke’ program was not disclosed to publishers who sold ads through Google’s exchange.

In the area of data access, Google has committed to the L’Autorité to devise a solution to ensure that all buyers which use Google Ad Manager to participate in its ad exchange receive equal access to data from its auctions — “to help them efficiently buy ad space from publishers”. Including when publishers use an off-platform technique called ‘Header Bidding’ (which enables publishers to run an auction among multiple ad exchanges but which, as a result of how Google operates, has meant such buyers may be at a data disadvantage vs those participating through Google’s own platform).

Google claims it is “usually not technically possible” for it to identify participants in Header Bidding auctions, and thus that it cannot share data with those buyers. But it’s now committed to address that by working “to create a solution that ensures that all buyers that a publisher works with, including those who participate in Header Bidding, can receive equal access to data related to outcomes from the Ad Manager auction”.

It notes that “in particular” it will be “providing information around the ‘minimum bid to win’ from previous auctions”, going forward — which would address one disadvantageous blind-spot for publishers taking an off-platform route to try to earn more ad revenue.

Another commitment from Google to the French watchdog is a pledge to increase flexibility for publishers using its Ad Manager product — including by letting them set custom pricing rules for ads that are in sensitive categories and implementing product changes aimed at improving interoperability between Ad Manager and third-party ad servers.

Google also writes that it is “reaffirming” that it won’t limit Ad Manager publishers from negotiating specific terms or pricing directly with other sell-side platforms (SSPs); and says it is committing to continue to provide publishers with controls to include or exclude certain buyers at their discretion when they use its product.

The third batch of commitments focus on transparency — and the opacity of adtech has long been a core criticism of the market, including for the competitive dimension as unclear workings by dominant platforms can be used to shield abusive practices from view. (Indeed, L’Autorité already fined Google $166M back in December 2019 for having what it billed then as “opaque and difficult to understand” rules for its ad platform, Google Ads, and for applying them in “an unfair and random manner.”)

On transparency, Google has pledged not to use data from other SSPs to optimize bids in its own exchange in a way that other SSPs can’t reproduce. It also says it’s reupping a promise not to share any bid from any Ad Manager auction participants with any other auction participant prior to completion of the auction.

“Additionally, we’ll give publishers at least three months’ notice for major changes requiring significant implementation effort that publishers must adopt, unless those are related to security or privacy protections, or are required by law,” it further notes.

The commitments made to L’Autorité will apply to how Google operates its adtech in the French market — but are also set to be applied more widely.

“We will be testing and developing these changes over the coming months before rolling them out more broadly, including some globally,” Gomri added in the blog post.

L’Autorité‘s action comes after years of attention paid to the online advertising market.

Back in 2018 it published a report that delved into a number of competitive advantages leveraged by Facebook and Google, noting how the duopoly’s ad targeting offerings benefit from their leadership positions in respective markers and the resultant network effects; and also from their vertical integration model (playing in both publishing and technical intermediation); as well as from the ‘logged’ environments both have developed, requiring users to log in to access ‘free’ services — giving them access to a high volume of sociodemographic and behavioral data to power their ad targeting products, among other competitive advantages.

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority has also conducted an online ad market study in recent years — findings from which are underpinning ‘pro-competition’ regulatory reform that’s now being targeted at tech giants with ‘strategic market status’ which will, in the future, be subject to an ex ante regime of custom requirements aimed at preemptively preventing market abuse.

The European Commission has, meanwhile, issued multiple antitrust enforcements against Google’s business in recent years — including a $1.7BN fine related to its search ad brokering business, AdSense, in 2019, and a $2.7BN penalty for its price comparison service, Google Shopping, back in 2017, to name two.

More recently, the EU regulators have been reported to be further probing Google’s adtech practices. So more interventions could be forthcoming.

However the Commission’s preferred approach of not imposing specific remedies itself — nor obtaining specific commitments, beyond a general requirement not to continue the sanctioned abuse (or any equivalent behavior) — seems to have failed to move the needle, certainly where Google’s market dominance is concerned.

Still, EU lawmakers’ experience with Google antitrust cases has certainly informed a recent pan-EU plan for a set of ex ante rules to apply to digital ‘gatekeepers’ — incoming under the Digital Markets Act, which was presented by Brussels last December.

#ad-server, #adtech, #advertising-tech, #antitrust, #competition, #digital-marketing, #europe, #european-union, #france, #google, #google-shopping, #google-ad-manager, #news-showcase, #online-advertising, #texas

0

Twitter to begin pilot testing Fleet ads starting today

Ads are coming to Twitter’s version of Stories, known as Fleets. The company announced today it will began pilot testing Fleet ads in the U.S., which will bring full-screen, vertical format ads to Twitter for the first time, allowing it to better compete with the vertical ads offered across social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok, among others.

The new Fleet ads will appear in between Fleets from people you follow and will support both images and video in 9:16 format. The video ads support up to 30-seconds of content, and brands can also include a “swipe up” call-to-action within their ads.

For video, this is shorter than what Instagram offers (up to 120 seconds) or TikTok (up to 60 seconds), but is in line with best practices which stress that shorter ads can be better.

Twitter didn’t say how often you’ll see a Fleet ad as you swipe, saying only that it will “innovate, test and continue to adapt” in this area, as it learns how people engage.

Advertisers, meanwhile, will receive standard Twitter ad metrics for their Fleet ads, including impressions, profile visits, clicks, website visits, and more. And for video ads, Twitter will report video views, 6s video views, starts, completes, quartile reporting and other metrics.

Image Credits: Twitter

The company is launching the pilot program in the U.S. with just 10 advertisers, including those in tech, retail, dining and CPG verticals.

Twitter says the pilot will help the company to understand how well these types of ads perform on Twitter, which will inform the company not only how to better optimize Fleet ads going forward, but also other areas where it may launch full-screen ads further down the road. In addition, it wants to learn how people feel about and engage with full-screen ads, as the test continues.

Twitter had first begun experimenting with Fleets in spring 2020 as a way to offer a Stories-like product experience where users could post ephemeral content. At the time, the company hoped Fleets would encourage more hesitant users to share content to the platform, as Fleets disappeared after 24 hours, reducing the pressure to perform that comes with posting directly. They also don’t circulate Twitter like retweets and quote tweets do, nor do they show up in Search or Moments.

Image Credits: Twitter

The feature rolled out to global users in November 2020. They were initially criticized by some who felt that Fleets were yet another example of how all social apps were starting to look the same. Nevertheless, Fleets have now become a core part of the Twitter experience.

Today, people use Fleets to point to other tweets they’ve posted, or to share personal updates, photos, and commentary. However, unlike Stories on other platforms, like Snapchat or Instagram, Fleets still offer a fairly bare bones experience in terms of creator tools. You can change the background color, add stickers and text, but that’s about it.

Twitter declined to say how many or what percentage of Twitter’s active user base has now adopted Fleets, noting instead that 73% of those who post Fleets say they also browse what others are sharing. The company says it plans to roll out new updates and features to Fleets in the future, as it continues to invest in the product.

Fleet ads will launch today in the U.S. across both iOS and Android.

#advertising-tech, #android, #apps, #computing, #digital-marketing, #instagram, #online-advertising, #operating-systems, #real-time-web, #retail, #snapchat, #social, #social-media, #social-media-platforms, #software, #twitter, #united-states

0

EU to review TikTok’s ToS after child safety complaints

TikTok has a month to respond to concerns raised by European consumer protection agencies earlier this year, EU lawmakers said today.

The Commission has launched what it described as “a formal dialogue” with the video sharing platform over its commercial practices and policy.

Areas of specific concern include hidden marketing, aggressive advertising techniques targeted at children and certain contractual terms in TikTok’s policies that could be considered misleading and confusing for consumers, per the Commission.

Commenting in a statement, justice commissioner Didier Reynders added: “The current pandemic has further accelerated digitalisation. This has brought new opportunities but it has also created new risks, in particular for vulnerable consumers. In the European Union, it is prohibited to target children and minors with disguised advertising such as banners in videos. The dialogue we are launching today should support TikTok in complying with EU rules to protect consumers.”

The background to this is that back in February the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) sent the Commission a report calling out a number of TikTok’s policies and practices — including what it said were unfair terms and copyright practices. It also flagged the risk of children being exposed to inappropriate content on the platform, and accused TikTok of misleading data processing and privacy practices.

Complaints were filed around the same time by consumer organisations in 15 EU countries — urging those national authorities to investigate the social media giant’s conduct.

The multi-pronged EU action means TikTok has not just the Commission looking at the detail of its small print but is facing questions from a network of national consumer protection authorities — which is being co-led by the Swedish Consumer Agency and the Irish Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (which handles privacy issues related to the platform).

Nonetheless, the BEUC queried why the Commission hasn’t yet launched a formal enforcement procedure.

We hope that the authorities will stick to their guns in this ‘dialogue’ which we understand is not yet a formal launch of an enforcement procedure. It must lead to good results for consumers, tackling all the points that BEUC raised. BEUC also hopes to be consulted before an agreement is reached,” a spokesperson for the organization told us. 

Also reached for comment, TikTok sent us this statement on the Commission’s action, attributed to its director of public policy, Caroline Greer: 

As part of our ongoing engagement with regulators and other external stakeholders over issues such as consumer protection and transparency, we are engaging in a dialogue with the Irish Consumer Protection Commission and the Swedish Consumer Agency and look forward to discussing the measures we’ve already introduced. In addition, we have taken a number of steps to protect our younger users, including making all under-16 accounts private-by-default, and disabling their access to direct messaging. Further, users under 18 cannot buy, send or receive virtual gifts, and we have strict policies prohibiting advertising directly appealing to those under the age of digital consent.

The company told us it uses age verification for personalized ads — saying users must have verified that they are 13+ to receive these ads; as well as being over the age of digital consent in their respective EU country; and also having consented to receive targeted ads.

However, TikTok’s age verification technology has been criticized as weak before now — and recent emergency child-safety-focused enforcement action by the Italian national data protection agency has led to TikTok having to pledge to strengthen its age verification processes in the country.

The Italian enforcement action also resulted in TikTok removing more than 500,000 accounts suspected of belonging to users aged younger than 13 earlier this month — raising further questions about whether it can really claim that under-13s aren’t routinely exposed to targeted ads on its platform.

In further background remarks it sent us, TikTok claimed it has clear labelling of sponsored content. But it also noted it’s made some recent changes — such as switching the label it applies on video advertising from “sponsored” to “ad” to make it clearer.

It also said it’s working on a toggle that aims to make it clearer to users when they may be exposed to advertising by other users by enabling the latter users to prominently disclose that their content contains advertising.

TikTok said the tool is currently in beta testing in Europe but it said it expects to move to general availability this summer and will also amend its ToS to require users to use this toggle whenever their content contains advertising. (But without adequate enforcement that may just end up as another overlooked and easily abused setting.)

The company recently announced a transparency center in Europe in a move that looks intended to counter some of the concerns being raised about its business in the region, as well as to prepare it for the increased oversight that’s coming down the pipe for all digital platforms operating in the EU — as the bloc works to update its digital rulebook.

 

#apps, #beuc, #consumer-protection, #data-processing, #europe, #european-union, #online-advertising, #policy, #privacy, #social, #social-media, #targeted-advertising, #tiktok, #tos, #video-advertising

0

Shoshana Zuboff Explains Why You Should Care About Privacy

In a wide-ranging interview, the author of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” talks about why people should pay attention to how big tech companies are using their information.

#apple-inc, #computers-and-the-internet, #data-mining-and-database-marketing, #iphone, #mobile-applications, #online-advertising, #privacy, #rumors-and-misinformation, #the-age-of-surveillance-capitalism-the-fight-for-the-future-at-the-new-frontier-of-power-book, #zuboff-shoshana

0

Sensor Tower makes its first acquisition with deal for market intelligence company, Pathmatics

Mobile app market intelligence firm Sensor Tower has made its first acquisition. The company this morning announced it’s acquiring Pathmatics, a market intelligence company which will now combine its paid digital and social media platform with Sensor Tower’s business. Deal terms were not detailed but include an undisclosed growth investment from Riverwood Capital into Pathmatics.

The acquisition will allow the companies to offer an expanded set of digital and mobile advertising insights to their respective customers, including new social insights for TikTok, YouTube mobile, and Snap this year, powered by Sensor Tower.

They companies will also introduce digital TV (over-the-top) insights, expanded coverage for mobile apps and ad insights, and will extend Pathmatics’ social and digital coverage globally.

The deal follows Sensor Tower’s first significant fundraising last year, with $45 million also from Riverwood Capital. Though Sensor Tower had been profitable since its launch, now serving more than 350 enterprise-level customers for its app and ad intelligence products, it chose to raise the additional capital in order to further grow its business, with investments in hiring, marketing, infrastructure and other expansions.

With Pathmatics, it’s buying a company that’s also been on its way up. The company had seen over 100% year-over-year growth for its own market intelligence business since launching in 2011. It now has over 250 brands, media and advertising agencies as customers, as well as over 7,000 users of its platform, representing over 200% software-as-a-service growth since 2018.

The two businesses are teaming up at a time when digital advertising is also on the rise, in part due to the shifts in the market attributed to the pandemic. As more businesses began operating online last year, advertisers increased their digital ad spending by 12.7% to $368 billion, per eMarketer. And digital advertising will account for 58% of media spending in 2021.

We understand Sensor Tower acquired both the IP and its over 60-person team from Pathmatics as a result of the acquisition. The entire team will join Sensor Tower with the executive suite now being a combination of both of the company’s leaders. Sensor Tower co-founder Alexey Malafeev will remain as CEO while Gabe Gottlieb, CEO and co-founder of Pathmatics, will become Chief Strategy Officer.

Historically, Pathmatics had provided brands and agencies with all creative used by advertisers, spend and impression, and path to publisher and viewer, to help them reduce waste from their budgets, improve their own marketing, and predict their competitors’ next move.

Going forward, both sets of customers will be able to opt into the other company’s solutions, including mobile, social media, and digital insights. Longer-term, the two companies will work together to bring more products to the market for their over 600 combined customers across 50 countries. Among these is a plan to add Pathmatics’ Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other digital ad intelligence capture into Sensor Tower, as well as an effort to augment Sensor Tower’s dataset with ad insights beyond app installs.

These features will make the product a better fit for larger brands looking into all aspects of the competitors’ campaigns, ranging from how they’re advertising for app installs to how they’re building brand awareness.

The deal officially closed on May 17, 2021, Sensor Tower says.

Santa Monica-based Pathmatics had raised $7.7 million to date from Upfront Ventures, BDMI and Baroda Ventures.

“As the global economy increasingly shifts to digital, it’s imperative that companies can understand and
navigate the entire digital landscape — from mobile to web and desktop — using accurate and insightful data,” noted Ramesh Venugopal, Principal at Riverwood Capital, in a statement about the acquisition. “The combination of Sensor Tower and Pathmatics presents a unique and valuable offering to customers allowing them to take advantage of a broad range of datasets with increased focus on consumer privacy and deep digital insights that leaders in every industry will need,” he added.

 

#advertising, #app-intelligence, #app-stores, #apps, #competitive-intelligence, #digital-advertising, #digital-marketing, #marketing, #media, #mobile, #mobile-advertising, #online-advertising, #pathmatics, #riverwood-capital, #sensor-tower, #social-media

0

Once Tech’s Favorite Economist, Now a Thorn in Its Side

Paul Romer’s call for government activism, particularly toward the big tech companies, reflects “a profound change in my thinking.”

#antitrust-laws-and-competition-issues, #computers-and-the-internet, #corporate-taxes, #economics-theory-and-philosophy, #facebook-inc, #online-advertising, #regulation-and-deregulation-of-industry, #romer-paul-m, #united-states-economy, #united-states-politics-and-government

0

Apple and Facebook’s Feud Reveals Americans Like Privacy

A new operating system gives users more privacy. That’s bad news for Facebook.

#advertising-and-marketing, #apple-inc, #computers-and-the-internet, #data-mining-and-database-marketing, #facebook-inc, #online-advertising, #social-media

0

How City Hall in New York City Saved Local News

City agencies are spending at least half of their ad budgets on local newspapers and websites. 

#adams-eric-l, #advertising-and-marketing, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #budgets-and-budgeting, #chicago-ill, #city-council-nyc, #corp-for-public-broadcasting, #de-blasio-bill, #executive-orders-and-memorandums, #federal-budget-us, #garcia-kathryn, #minorities, #new-york-city, #new-york-state, #news-and-news-media, #newspapers, #online-advertising, #politics-and-government, #stanford-university, #state-legislatures, #university-of-north-carolina, #wiley-maya

0

Facebook Ban Hits Trump Where It Hurts: Messaging and Money

Facebook has increasingly become one of the most vital weapons in a political campaign’s arsenal, and few had tapped into its potential for advertising and fund-raising as aggressively as Mr. Trump’s.

#computers-and-the-internet, #facebook-inc, #online-advertising, #political-advertising, #presidential-election-of-2020, #social-media, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government

0

A new YouTube feature will make its connected TV ads more shoppable

YouTube today gave advertisers a sneak peek at its plans to make its video platform more shoppable. The company will soon be introducing a new interactive feature aimed at advertisers called brand extensions, which will allow YouTube viewers to learn more about a product they see on the screen with a click of a button.

The new ad format will allow the advertiser to highlight their website link or another call-to-action in their connected TV video ad. The viewer can then click the option “send to phone,” which then sends that promotion or URL directly to their mobile device, without interrupting their viewing experience.

From the mobile device, the consumer could then shop the website as they would normally — browsing products, adding items to the cart, and completing the transaction. But they can do it when they’re ready to engage with that product information, instead of having to stop their video to do so.

The advertisers will also be able to smartly target the ads to the correct audience, based on the video content. For example, a fitness video may feature a brand extension ad that shows a new pair of running shoes.

Advertisers will be able to measure the conversions generated by these brand extensions directly in Google Ads, YouTube says.

In a related e-commerce ad effort, brands can now also add browsable product images to their direct response video ads, in order to encourage interested shoppers to click to visit their website or app.

These are only a few of the efforts YouTube has been working on with the goal of expand further into e-commerce.

Consumers, and particularly younger Gen Z users, today like to watch videos and engage while they shop, leading to the emergence of numerous video shopping services — like Popshop Live, NTWRK, ShopShops, TalkShopLive, Bambuser, and others. Facebook has also invested in live shopping and video-based shopping across both Facebook and Instagram.

Meanwhile, TikTok has become a home to video-based e-commerce, with Walmart (which also tried to acquire a stake in the app when Trump was trying to force a sale) hosting multiple shopping livestreams in recent months. TikTok also found success with e-commerce as it has rolled out more tools to direct video viewers to websites through integrated links and integrations with Shopify, for example.

But YouTube still has a sizable potential audience for video shopping, as it represents 40% of watch time of all ad-supported streaming services, per Comscore data. And of the top five streaming services in the U.S. that account for 80% of the connected TV market, only two are ad-supported, YouTube noted.

Ads are only one way YouTube will drive e-commerce traffic. Creators will also play a role.

A report from Bloomberg this past fall said YouTube was asking creators to tag and track the products they were featuring in their clips. YouTube later revealed more about this effort in February, saying it was beta testing a shopping experience that lets viewers shop from their favorite creators, and that this would roll out more broadly in 2021.

Brand extensions are separate from that effort, however, as they’re focused on giving the advertiser their own means to drive a shopping experience from a video.

YouTube says the new brand extensions ads are only the first of more interactive features the company has in store. The feature will roll out globally later this year.

#ad-technology, #ads, #adtech, #brands, #digital-marketing, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #google, #google-ads, #marketing, #online-advertising, #online-video-advertising, #shopping, #streaming-services, #video, #video-ads, #video-advertising, #youtube

0

Verizon Sells AOL and Yahoo to Apollo for $5 Billion

Verizon offloaded its media business to Apollo Global Management in a deal valued at $5 billion as the mobile phone giant focuses on building out its 5G network.

#5g-wireless-communications, #aol-inc, #apollo-global-management, #computers-and-the-internet, #mergers-acquisitions-and-divestitures, #online-advertising, #verizon-communications-inc, #yahoo-inc

0

Verizon Near Deal to Sell Yahoo and AOL

In making the deal with the private equity firm Apollo, Verizon is acknowledging that it couldn’t compete with Google and Facebook for digital ads. Instead, it will concentrate on building a 5G network.

#5g-wireless-communications, #aol-inc, #armstrong-tim, #computers-and-the-internet, #online-advertising, #search-engines, #verizon-communications-inc, #wireless-communications, #yahoo-inc

0

Prancer, the ‘Demonic Chihuahua,’ Finds a Home

An adoption ad said he was “literally the Chihuahua meme that describes them as being 50% hate and 50% tremble.” Undeterred, a Connecticut woman has adopted him.

#adoptions, #dogs, #online-advertising, #prancer, #social-media

0

Instreamatic, which inserts interactive voice ads into audio streams, raises $6.1M Series A round

Interactive voice advertising startup Instreamatic, which can insert interactive voice ads into an audio stream, has raised $6.1 million in a Series A funding led by Progress Ventures led the round, joined by Accomplice, and Google Assistant Investments.

SF-HQ’d Instreamatic lets brands that advertise through streaming music apps and podcasts (for instance) have interactive voice-based dialogues with consumers. So instead of an audio ad playing in a one-way experience (as all adverts currently do), the listener can talk to, and interact, with the ad.

For example, when an Instreamatic advert says “Hello! Need help sleeping?” the microphone on the device it’s playing on opens, and the listener can respond however they like. If they say “Yes” then the brand’s voice (perhaps it’s a mattress brand) will respond with “Then we will sing you a lullaby”. If the user doesn’t respond then the ad experience is over and the content resumes playing. There are also more complex versions of this scenario. The key is that Instreamatic knows what happened and can tailor future ads to match the listener’s past engagement. Here’s an example.

The company says its technology can understand the ‘intent and tone’ of consumers’ natural responses to take the next action.

The upshot is that this AI-fueled voice ad could be coming to an audio stream near you soon. And with audio exploding following the pandemic, the platform is likely to benefit.

CEO Stas Tushinskiy, CEO, Instreamatic said in a statement: “Consumers don’t like being fed annoyingly repetitive ads. Brands are under ever-increasing pressure to make those moments meaningful while supporting strong ROI demands. On the publisher side, audio and video platforms need a better way to prove their audiences and ad inventory deliver their promise to brands. Our voice AI infrastructure, deployed by brands such as IKEA, Infiniti, and HP and across platforms like Pandora and Gaana, is empirically demonstrating that conversational marketing benefits brands, consumers, and publishers alike.”

Instreamatic says its voice ads can reach an average of 12% engagement, with some campaigns reaching 19%. These figures are quite unusual for the online advertising industry – the average CTR of mobile advertising is 0.6%.

The company says that a recent campaign by Infiniti saw 5.5% of listeners who declined the offer in the first conversation ask to receive more information about the vehicle after the second (and more personalized) chat.

Instreamatic also says it can achieve what it calls ‘continuous dialogues’ with consumers, not dissimilar to an Alexa or Siri device.

Because of the platforms complexity, Instreamatic also says it can build up a profile of the user based on an individual consumer’s previous interactions with a brand, allowing it to customize future campaigns.

So far brands that have used the platform include Pandora, Salem Media, Gaana (the Indian streaming music service), as well as a recent deal with Universal Electronics to expand voice ads into the smart-TV industry. It is also working with Triton Digital, one of the larger audio ad networks.

 
“Consumer demand for audio and video content, and the ubiquity of smart devices delivering that content on-demand, continues to accelerate,” said Nick MacShane, the founding partner at Progress Ventures, the venture capital arm of Progress Partners, a full-service merchant bank. “What hasn’t caught up is how brands and publishers can effectively engage those audiences in the same medium and analytically prove the ROI of their audio and video platform ad spend.”
 
A competitor to Instreamatic is AdsWizz, which, instead of voice, allows users to shake their phones when they are interested in an ad. But its interactions are obviously, therefore, more limited.

According to Juniper Research, the voice-based ad market will grow to $19 billion in the U.S. by 2022, growing the market share from the $17 billion audio ad market and the $57 billion programmatic ad market. Voice assistant usage is booming. Some estimates put it at over at 3 billion right, and half of all searches are expected to be done via voice. Some 55% of teens use voice search daily.

As well as Tushinskiy, the Instreamatic team also includes cofounder Simon Dunlop (former CEO/Founder of Bookmate, a subscription-based reading and audiobook platform, and Zvuk; Victor Frumkin (co-founder at Zvuk, a mobile music streaming app in Eastern Europe and Bookmate); Ilya Lityuga, CTO, one of the original team members at RuTube; and Andy Whatley, U.S. radio industry veteran.

#artificial-intelligence, #assistant, #ceo, #co-founder, #cofounder, #eastern-europe, #europe, #gaana, #hp, #ikea, #instreamatic, #juniper-research, #marketing, #mobile-advertising, #online-advertising, #pandora, #partner, #rutube, #sirius-xm, #smart-devices, #social-media-marketing, #tc, #triton-digital, #united-states, #voice-search

0

How Mark Zuckerberg and Apple’s C.E.O. Became Foes

The chief executives of Facebook and Apple have opposing visions for the future of the internet. Their differences are set to escalate this week.

#advertising-and-marketing, #apple-inc, #computers-and-the-internet, #cook-timothy-d, #corporate-social-responsibility, #data-mining-and-database-marketing, #facebook-inc, #iphone, #mobile-applications, #online-advertising, #privacy, #social-media, #software, #zuckerberg-mark-e

0

Breaking Point: How Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook Became Foes

The chief executives of Facebook and Apple have opposing visions for the future of the internet. Their differences are set to escalate this week.

#advertising-and-marketing, #apple-inc, #computers-and-the-internet, #cook-timothy-d, #corporate-social-responsibility, #data-mining-and-database-marketing, #facebook-inc, #iphone, #mobile-applications, #online-advertising, #privacy, #social-media, #software, #zuckerberg-mark-e

0

Apple’s New Devices Target Markets Led by Smaller Rivals

The company also said it planned to release iPhone software next week with a privacy feature that worries many digital-advertising companies.

#advertising-and-marketing, #apple-inc, #mobile-applications, #online-advertising, #podcasts, #privacy, #software

0

In the Roaring Twenties, Ads Make a Comeback

Subscriptions may be the rage, but businesses of all sorts are pouring money into advertising — digital most of all.

#advertising-and-marketing, #antitrust-laws-and-competition-issues, #computers-and-the-internet, #data-mining-and-database-marketing, #online-advertising, #quarantine-life-and-culture

0

Building customer-first relationships in a privacy-first world is critical

In business today, many believe that consumer privacy and business results are mutually exclusive — to excel in one area is to lack in the other. Consumer privacy is seen by many in the technology industry as an area to be managed.

But the truth is, the companies who champion privacy will be better positioned to win in all areas. This is especially true as the digital industry continues to undergo tectonic shifts in privacy — both in government regulation and browser updates.

By the end of 2022, all major browsers will have phased out third-party cookies — the tracking codes placed on a visitor’s computer generated by another website other than your own. Additionally, mobile device makers are limiting identifiers allowed on their devices and applications. Across industry verticals, the global enterprise ecosystem now faces a critical moment in which digital advertising will be forever changed.

Up until now, consumers have enjoyed a mostly free internet experience, but as publishers adjust to a cookie-less world, they could see more paywalls and less free content.

They may also see a decrease in the creation of new free apps, mobile gaming, and other ad-supported content unless businesses find new ways to authenticate users and maintain a value exchange of free content for personalized advertising.

When consumers authenticate themselves to brands and sites, they create revenue streams for publishers as well as the opportunity to receive discounts, first-looks, and other specially tailored experiences from brands.

To protect consumer data, companies need to architect internal systems around data custodianship versus acting from a sense of data entitlement. While this is a challenging and massive ongoing evolution, the benefits of starting now are enormous.

Putting privacy front and center creates a sustainable digital ecosystem that enables better advertising and drives business results. There are four steps to consider when building for tomorrow’s privacy-centric world:

Transparency is key

As we collectively look to redesign how companies interact with and think about consumers, we should first recognize that putting people first means putting transparency first. When people trust a brand or publishers’ intentions, they are more willing to share their data and identity.

This process, where consumers authenticate themselves — or actively share their phone number, email or other form of identity — in exchange for free content or another form of value, allows brands and publishers to get closer to them.

#advertising-tech, #column, #consumer-privacy, #digital-advertising, #ec-column, #ec-marketing-tech, #identity-management, #marketing, #media, #online-advertising, #operating-system, #privacy, #targeted-advertising

0

APKPure app contained malicious adware, say researchers

Security researchers say APKPure, a widely popular app for installing older or discontinued Android apps from outside of Google’s app store, contained malicious adware that flooded the victim’s device with unwanted ads.

Kaspersky Lab said that it alerted APKPure on Thursday that its most recent app version, 3.17.18, contained malicious code that siphoned off data from a victim’s device without their knowledge, and pushed ads to the device’s lock screen and in the background to generate fraudulent revenue for the adware operators.

But the researchers said that the malicious code had the capacity to download other malware, potentially putting affected victims at further risk.

The researchers said the APKPure developers likely introduced the malicious code, known as a software development kit or SDK, from an unverified source. APKPure removed the malicious code and pushed out a new version, 3.17.19, and the developers no longer list the malicious version on its site.

APKPure was set up in 2014 to allow Android users access to a vast bank of Android apps and games, including old versions, as well as app versions from other regions that are no longer on Android’s official app store Google Play. It later launched an Android app, which also has to be installed outside Google Play, serving as its own app store to allow users to download older apps directly to their Android devices.

APKPure is ranked as one of the most popular sites on the internet.

But security experts have long warned against installing apps outside of the official app stores as quality and security vary wildly as much of the Android malware requires victims to install malicious apps from outside the app store. Google scans all Android apps that make it into Google Play, but some have slipped through the cracks before.

TechCrunch contacted APKPure for comment but did not hear back.