A glimpse at how advertisers would govern web identity; why aren’t big publishers suing Google and Facebook?

Privacy Beat

Your weekly privacy news update.




Key attorney explains ‘policy framework’ for how advertising industry might seek to govern web identity for targeting

A prominent attorney who works closely with the advertising industry has explained a vision of how cross-site identity and privacy might be managed on the web as third-party cookies are sunsetting as a unifying technology. Stuart P. Ingis was speaking last week during a video-recorded webinar panel organized by the trade publication AdWeek.

“[T]here needs to be availability of the identifiers on equal terms, kind of governed and managed by the industry as a whole, not by a particular company, and equal availability so everyone’s playing by the same rules,” said Ingis, who is chairman of the Washington, D.C., law firm Venable LLP.

Ingis heads a policy, privacy and legal working group of the Partnership for Responsible Addressable Media (PRAM), an industry association established last fall.  PRAM’s purpose is outlined on a page of the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA).  It calls finding a balance between privacy and targeted (“addressable”) advertising “a delicate needle to thread.”

In his April 14 remarks at the AdWeek forum, Ingis said a committee was meeting weekly on the policy frameworks of ad-related identity management. “There’s a whole group of permitted uses that the identifier, identifiers plural, would be allowed, appropriate uses, and nothing out,” he said.

To read Ingis remarks transcribed, see “QUOTE OF THE WEEK” at the bottom of this edition of Privacy Beat. (DISCLOSURE: ITEGA, the sponsor of this newsletter, has proposed for itself a role governing web identity as a 501(c)3 public-benefit nonprofit). 

Among questions related to Ingis’ remarks: What “industry” is he referring to? Who will do the governance and in whose interest? What will ensure that browsers and platform technologies will permit identity uses that advertisers desire? What does “addressability” mean? And how are “consumer privacy expectations” determined? Will the defined industry  publicize and seek input on its policy drafts? (It has already asked for code submissions and released — in December — an initial set of proposed “business use cases.” Its website promises further public information.)


FTC nominee Khan opines about ad-tech industry vacuuming up personal data and seeing it as ‘cost of business’

“Everything needs to be on the table” when it comes to addressing news publishers’ concerns about Facebook and Google, Federal Trade Commission nominee Lina Khan told senators during her confirmation hearing this week. “Obviously local journalism is in crisis,” Ms. Khan said. “Increasingly, news publishers are dependent on a few gatekeepers to disseminate their news.”

She raised particular concerns about the ways a single algorithm change can tank readership for any publisher. She also expressed concern about the concentration of the digital advertising market.

In her coverage of Khan’s testimony, MediaPost’s Wendy Davis picked up this segment: “There are some really interesting questions to be asked specific to behavioral ad-based business models, insofar as these business models really incentivize endless vacuuming up of data,” Khan said at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on her nomination. “I worry that in some cases, some of these companies may think it’s just worth the cost of business to actually violate privacy laws.”

The New York Times’ Cecilia Kang wrote that Khan “also focused on the online advertising market and how the consumer data mining that fuels it poses potential harms for consumers. The business model, she said, incentivizes more and more data collection.



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Apple advances privacy branding with IDFA rules, app tracking disclosure — and more advertising

Monday is rollout day for Apple’s new rules governing the use of its device identifier for advertisers (IDFA) as well as a requirement that when apps install they have to give you the option of not being tracked. Both appear designed to advance Apple’s privacy-aware branding. There’s tons of coverage of these and a link sampling is below. Advertisers, ad-tech and publishers — not to mention Facebook — are all worried about the financial impact on their businesses.

Meanwhile, in a new twist, Apple this week revealed that they are — at almost the same time — ramping up their advertising business by placing a new and second ad position on its App Store search results page.  This story has been simmering for months, but the fact that NPR is doing a story about it shows it is has become mainstream news.


Life after the third-party cookie — take you pick of FLoC, Parakeet — or chaos from the marketers’ perspective — and what the about user?

Figuring out how advertisers and publishers are going to collaborate with the platforms to sell advertising as the third-party “cookie” option fades gets more and more confusing by the day. To recap — Google is pushing an in-browser cohort technology called “FLoC”, and elements of the ad-tech industry have dozens of proposals for new identity tracking efforts that cleverly try to reproduce what third-party cookies — without third-party cookies.

But it’s becoming a likely cat-and-mouse game among marketers, their ad-tech collaborators and the companies which make web browsers or run competing advertising platforms — Google, Mozilla, Facebook, Apple, Brave, Duck Duck Go, etc.  The browser makers are trading notes in public virtual meetings of the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Privacy Community Group.

This week, Microsoft began pushing its alternative to Google’s “FLoC” — something called Parakeet which is first disclosed in about February.  It’s sort of a hybrid of FLoC and other ideas. Where FLoC does all the user-interest tracking and categorizing in the Chrome browser — and sends results to Google and advertisers for anonymous ad targeting — Parakeet does some work in the Microsoft Edge browser and some in the cloud. And Parakeet evidently seeks to allow the consumer who is being profiled to see and adjust their profile.

The problem, however, is that so far these are competing approaches, with Apple not embracing either, and that creates chaos for marketers and publishers.



Little guys and governments take on Google and Facebook over monopoly claims. Why aren’t big U.S. publishers joining in?

A big British publisher and a scrappy group of rather-rural U.S. newspapers are sticking their necks out by filing antitrust lawsuits naming Google or Facebook. In so doing, they are beginning private efforts to curb the dominance of the platforms in advertising and user-identity control, and joining the U.S. Justice Department, and state attorneys general.

But so far big U.S. publishers or broadcasters, many of whom are dependent upon Google ad-serving technology or referral links from Facebook and Google to drive programmatic advertising revenue, are AWOL — not among lawsuit plaintiffs.  In an intriguing report in the Washington Monthly, former Washington Post media critic Dan Froomkin reports on The New York Times’ murky financial relationship with Facebook.

The British Daily Mail’s small publishers’ private antitrust suits — against Google and Facebook — were both filed earlier this week in federal courts in New York, Texas, Wisconsin, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and Mississippi. They all open with a quote from Thomas Jefferson, and focus on harms claimed to the viability of the local-news industry. The complaints ranging up from 40 pages, are similarly worded, and ask for unspecified relief from the allegedly monopolistic practices cited. (LINKS BELOW).

Since 2018, the News Media Alliance, a lobbying trade association including many larger U.S. newspaper publishers, has been pushing for a law proposed by U.S. Rep. David Cicillini, D-R.I., that would grant short-term antitrust immunity for publishers to collaborate in negotiations with the platforms. The idea (S.673) has had some bipartisan support but hasn’t moved forward. Other solutions proposed are the formation of a publisher consortium: (See: ”Instead of scrabbling over the triopoly’s crumbs, publishers must unite” and “Local Media Consortium partners with ITEGA to establish first data-privacy protocol for news publishers.



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No paradox when it comes to people wanting privacy, according to Carnegie-Mellon’s Lorrie Cranor

A Carnegie-Mellon University privacy researcher who formerly served as the Federal Trade Commission’s chief technologist says the public values and wants privacy a lot and is just skeptical of ways to ensure it.  Prof Lorrie Faith Cranor is interivewed by C.J. Thompson of Digital Privacy News in a blog posted this week. 

“Most people value their privacy a lot,” she says in the interview. “Very few people will tell you they don’t actually care about privacy.  But increasingly, people will say that they don’t think there’s anything they can do to protect their privacy — or even that the things that might protect their privacy are pointless, because they won’t actually work. So while some talk about a privacy paradox — where people say they want to privacy but don’t act on it — our research suggests that it isn’t really a paradox: People often have reasons for not acting that are not inconsistent with their desire for privacy.”





A glimpse of how the advertising industry proposes to govern identity on the web

  • Below are remarks of Stuart P. Ingis as recorded to video on April 14, 2021 during an AdWeek Mediaweek webinar video panel: “What’s Next for Adtech?” The panel included Bill Tucker of the Association of National Advertisers, and Dennis Buchheim, executive vice president of the Interactive Advertising Bureau Tech Lab. Ingis is chairman of the Washington, D.C., Venable LLP law firm and an expert on industry self-regulation, privacy, marketing, advertising, consumer privacy, ecommerce and internet law, his bio says.

“The policy framework is kind of this simple. There’s a lot of detail being developed around it. But there needs to be availability of the identifiers on equal terms, kind of governed and managed by the industry as a whole, not by a particular company and equal availability so everyone’s playing by the same rules. 

“We want it to be operable and ideally the browsers, the platforms, any gatekeeper would not interfere with the use of identifiers that follow all these rules and that are defined by the whole ecosystem not one platform or two platforms. And in order to do that obviously we recognize it has to be effective, reputable, lead with consumer privacy expectations. There’s a whole group of permitted uses that the identifier, identifiers plural, would be allowed, appropriate uses, and nothing else. 

“This is of our creation and that’s how you can ensure certainty and responsibility around it and of course transparency and control for consumers and oversight and accountability by the industry as a whole both in a governance legal oversight but also accountability that would exist in that legal context but also technically and Dennis [Buchheim] I’m sure will reference it. 

“But there’s a lot of hard work and detail going into that by this group that Bill [Tucker] referenced. We’re meeting weekly. But conceptually those are  what the principles are about.” 


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 newsletter@itega.org.

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