Identity, advertising and future of journalism; universal ID stampede;  can ads and privacy co-exist?

Privacy Beat

Your weekly privacy news update.



REGISTER: Identity, Advertising and Future of Journalism

RJI and ITEGA set free, participatory webinars on identity, advertising and journalism future; first is Jan. 7

What’s next for sustaining democracy and trustworthy news on the web?  Three free, public webinars will chart the current landscape, explain the importance of “identity” and showcase solutions being worked on.


“Identity, Advertising and the Future of Journalism,” is set for Jan. 7, Jan. 21 and Feb 4 — participatory webinars curated by the Information Trust Exchange Governing Association (ITEGA.ORG)  with support from the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism institute.  Anyone may participate by registering in advance.

“Advertising remains critical to the future of journalism, but far from the only answer,” says Bill Densmore, president and founder of ITEGA. “Redoing the way the web and advertising handle identity is table stakes to better support for consumer privacy.”

Densmore said the Jan. 7 session will benchmark the current identity “Lumascape” and start to gather participant ideas for how to make it more responsive to privacy — and trustworthy information commerce..  A second session Jan. 21 will zero in on the importance of privacy and identity in restoring trustworthy news and information.  The Feb. 4 session will showcase emerging solutions.

“The next shoes to drop in the digital privacy and online advertising world will be, and already are, shaping, the future of journalism,” said Randy Picht, executive director of the RJI, at the Missouri School of Journalism. “And getting an understanding of the players and the behind-the-scenes issues that are driving these conversations is critical.”  (REGISTER)




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More ad-tech players enter race to get  a piece of universal ID market; IAB’s Rearc provides update

The field of vendors and other players seeking a position in a race to replace the third-party cookie in programmatic advertising got more crowded this week with offerings announced by Verizon Media, a Neustar/Pubmatic collaboration, and the nonprofit PreBid.

These join Unified ID 2.0 being developed by The Trade Desk Inc., with partners, LiVeRamp’s Authenticated Traffic Solution (ATS). and ID5’s “Universal ID.” The challenge is to figure out how to transfer knowledge about advertising viewers and what they’ve viewed without breaking emerging privacy laws or angering the public.  There are at least 20 ad-tech efforts underway.

For two decades that has been the function of so-called “third-party cookies.”  But for privacy (or competitive) reasons, major browser makers Google, Apple and Mozilla plan or have already blocked such cookies from working.

  • Verizon said its “new unified identity solution” — ConnectID — would link to 600 million impressions with advertisers, according to Laurie Sullivan’s account at  Verizon owns Yahoo, TechCrunch and AOL brands.  In the account by Ronan Shields at a total of 900 million “customer touch points” was cited by Verizon.
  • Ad-tech data manager Neustar announced a Dec. 8 webinar to talk with its partner PubMatic about “Fabrick ID will maintain addressability and sustain your business”  using “demographic, psychographic, behavioral and geolocation-based data.”

  • Finally, PreBid, the industry nonprofit organization which manages technology to run ad auctions on web browsers, said it was partnering with Epsilon and acquired technology from it that would allow the frielding of “Shared ID” — billed as another “open source” entry into the universal ID sweepstakes aimed at meeting needs of publishers. It combines Epsilon’s PubCommon ID and will use the domain that PreBid has.  PreBid’s board is headed by Tom Kershaw, who is CTO at another ad-tech company, Magnite. Kershaw told AdWeek that Shared ID will support third-party cookies as long as they’re useful.

Meanwhile, the Interactive Advertising Bureau Tech Lab (IAB Lab) completed this week another of its period online webinars reporting on the progress of its “Project Rearc” effort to redesign how programmatic advertising works.  IAB’s Jordan Mithcell and Partnership for Addressable Media (PRAM) spokesman Michael Donnelly both indicated progress toward publishing tech documents about data flows, accountability frameworks and privacy implications by early-to-mid January.

IAB is open to having a role in “data transparency standards and services, potentially operating some or all components of consumer-facing consents services,” Mitchell told about 130 people who joined the webinar, all but a handful from ad-tech firms.

Outlining its Unified ID 2.0 offering to the webinar, The Trade Desk’s Bill Michels reiterated the company doesn’t want to own or run the identity service and will make its technology open and turn it over to an independent nonprofit for governance. “Anybody can use it as long as they abide by a code of conduct,” said Michels.  He didn’t say who would administer such a code.






Mozilla funds Polish foundation report pushing end to surveillance ad tracking; seeks EU “incentives”

It’s possible to reform the ad-tech industry toward privacy-friendly and sustainable online advertising without bankrupting online publishers, a Polish-based anti-surveillance nonprofit, Panoptykon Foundation says in a report released last week and funded by the Mozilla Foundation.

“Is advertising based on invasive tracking and profiling the only way to pay for online content?” the report asks. “What individual, societal and economic costs does it bring about? What is preventing the uptake of privacy-friendly alternatives?”

It suggests that European Union policymakers enforce laws that would incentivize the update of alternatives. The report (DOWNLOAD HERE) is authored by Panoptkyon researcher and lawyer Karolina Kwanska as part of a Mozilla EU Tech Policy Fellowship.

“The online advertising industry has become toxic. Internet users are tracked, surveilled, and targeted with ads that may exploit their vulnerabilities. Publishers – forced to play by the rules set by large online platforms – must prioritise content that rewards engagement, not truth or civility — and then hand up to 70% of profits over to advertising middlemen,” Panoptykon says in announcing the report.

The report’s four recommends include plugging the GDPR enforcement gap, creating incentives for privacy-friendly advertising in the ePrivacy regulation, limiting platform power with an updated Digital Services Act package, and promoting uptake of alternatives by funding research, studying social harms, supporting transitions from real-time bidding and promoting digital and media literacy.



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Group pushing one-and-done “do no track” signaling from web browser plans public meeting on Thursday, Dec. 10

A publisher-privacy coalition seeking to make it easy for the public to shut off unauthorized use of their personal browsing information from advertisers and their agents holds another public virtual planning meeting on Thurs. Dec. 10, it announced.  The group has embraced code written initially by Wesleyan University students formalized in October now called Global Privacy Control (GPC). (See FAQ)

Sebastian Zimmeck, the Wesleyan professor who started the work, explains in a backgrounder that the GPC is designed to become standardized “do not sell or share my data” request that  a consumer could set to have their web browser send automatically to web sites they visit. The new California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) is being interpreted to require sites honor such a request.

A more technical description of GPC is at its GitHub repository. The effort, initially spearheaded by Ashkan Soltani (Georgetown Law) and Zimmeck (Wesleyan University) now includes The New York Times, The Washington Post, Financial Times, Automattic ( & Tumblr), Glitch, DuckDuckGo, Brave, Mozilla, Disconnect, Abine, Digital Content Next (DCN), Consumer Reports, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

Soltani called Thursday’s online meeting in a posting for the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Privacy Community Group.  The group’s co-chair said the meeting would run from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., U.S. Eastern Standard Time as a Zoom Meeting and provided a login link and minutes location.







Major publisher trade group chief Jason Kint explains flawed method Facebook uses to decide site quality ratings

“By using the Alexa Site Rankings as its benchmark, Facebook provides these sites with the digital equivalent of an airport TSA Precheck under the assumption they “are unlikely to be spreading misinformation” (Facebook’s words, not mine) by being on the Alexa 5k. This is a list which includes Zerohedge, Infowars, PJ Media, Gateway Pundit, the Palmer Report, and Russia Today. If you are unfamiliar with these sites, they’re generally considered to be flush with misinformation and disinformation (Russia Today is even funded by the Kremlin.) This isn’t partisan, it cuts down both extremes where there’s often a common intent to deceive . . .

“With great power, comes great responsibility. Facebook is a monopoly with the power to limit choice for consumers and advertisers. Now we know that this platform, where half of Americans consume news, uses a vetting process that equates clicks with quality, that devalues many of the most trusted newspapers and gives a fast pass to sites that serve Facebook’s priorities – engagement and popularity. If that’s the case, the public should know about it so they can decide if that’s where they want to put their precious time and attention . . . 

“By choosing “popularity” rather than Facebook’s internal decision making, Facebook doesn’t disrupt its business need to drive engagement. It also avoids political backlash for favoring a particular ideology; conservative sites are every bit as popular and engaging, as Roose’s reporting demonstrates. And, finally, Facebook outsources liability for maintaining its list.”

  • Excerpt from Oct. 19, 2020 blog post by Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next, describing the method Facebook uses to rank news sites.


Privacy Beat is a weekly email update from the Information Trust Exchange Governing Association in service to its mission. Links and brief reports are compiled, summarized or analyzed by Bill Densmore and Eva Tucker.  Submit links and ideas for coverage to

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