User choice and control, nonprofit governance — core values of ITEGA’s shared-user network for trust, identity, privacy and information commerce

Across the Internet today, at any given moment, pieces of our “persona” — our demographic identities, our interests, and even our intentions  — are spread asunder. We don’t know where they are, who has control of them or for what they might be used.

The same thing happens to some degree in the physical world.  We share elements of our personalities and preferences to friends and businesses and we don’t know what they do with it – sometimes with disturbing consequences.  So this is not a problem unique to our digital lives.

But it concerns many of us, and it does not have to be inevitable.

A goal of the Information Trust Exchange Governing Association is to help the public to manage – and sometimes obtain value – from sharing things we consider normally private.  An advantage of this is the ability to better control our experience on the web – the ads we see and the stories and experiences that reach us.

ITEGA task-group collaborators seek an alternative to the current ways user data is shared among web sites of publishers, advertisers and the technology agents — and platforms with which they work.  The ITEGA ecosystem plan consists of a set of business rules and technology approaches which will allow a public user to manage attributes of their identity from a single location of their choosing.  They can decide how it is shared, to whom and for what.  Wide adoption of this new sharing network will:

  • Enhance digital privacy and identity management for the public
  • Make the permissioned “targeting” of ads and content more open and transparent
  • Improve the quality of such targeting by relying upon an updating interest profile managed by the individual
  • Confirm and simplify the ability of a user to “opt out” of such profile sharing

The architecture is designed so that user “persona” data is managed by individual publishers (or other Identity Service Providers — IdSP’s) in a first-party relationship with their users/subscribers. But that data can be shared on a session basis — with an anonymized user ID that persists for up to about a week — with advertisers and agencies able to use it as part of real-time-bidding (RTB) processes.

The user data would be stored temporarily at competing, ITEGA-certified data-service providers (DSP) to whom all advertisers, agencies, networks and exchanges would make calls for the data as they are engaged in RTB. In this way the network wlll not be relying on the reliability of thousands of publisher’s servers for real-time user-data services; it would be dependent on one, or perhaps a few, preferred providers of user identity data.   

Today, the platforms and technologies that control what advertising you see depend largely upon “cookies” that are placed on your computer or phone by potentially hundreds of websites you may have never heard of.  Opaque from public view, companies involved in this “ad-tech” world share information they learn about you and use it to guess what advertisements you would like to see when. 

The system is dependent upon making your computer or phone work hard every time you look at a page with advertisements on it.  The electronic “auction” of ad spaces on the page takes up time, and bandwidth, slowing down how fast pages load.  This system is diagrammed by Lumascape

The problem of putting all the work on the user’s machine — their web browser — was recognized as early as 2015 by experts. “We have constructed our ad tech in the Lumascape to put all the weight of the data on the user themselves,” Tim Gentry, global revenue director of The Guardian newspaper said in story posted Nov. 17, 2015. “So every time your device opens a page, the calls to identify that device in the auction are all on the browser side rather than the server itself. That must change.”

But ironically, Google is trying now to make browsers do more work, not less, with its FLoC proposal.  ITEGA’s alternative, explained through our UDEX.ORG initiative, manages identity in a governed, shared-server environment where competing user-data exchanges (“UDEX”) can be collaborative and nonprofit. 

ITEGA-UDEX Advantages:

  • Advertisers can have a single view of a user (without PII), constantly updated and vetted by the user herself and by a home-base publisher or identity service provider.
  • This means everyone has a common contact source of user data from which to figure their bids for ad space
  • The system does not preclude the continuation of the current cookie-matching world but over time it should be marginalized for its inefficiency and opaque, privacy-violating user experience.
  • Although the user data is sourced centrally in real time, it does not persist centrally, giving end users maximum choice of their identity/publishing service provider. (“Big Brother is blind.”)
  • Distributing the user data management functions reduces the potential for identity theft on a massive, system scale and allows for the application of local laws and customs regarding privacy.

​All of this of course depends upon developing a common taxonomy, or schema, for user identity and interest attributes. ​ That’s why ITEGA supporters have help task-group meetings to work on language and technologies.  There is much more work to do, however.   To learn more contact ITEGA


The ITEGA service plan has a three-element structure defined by fuctional specifications (link) for user-data sharing, as set of  Exchange Rules (link) as well as a Member Contract (link). They describe the structure:

  • GOVERNING AUTHORITY – A non-stock, public-benefit, member organization which licenses operators of the ITSA Network and develops and maintains ITE rules and standards.
  • ITA PROTOCOLS / RULES– A set of technical protocols and business rules which govern the transfer of specific information across the public TCP/IP network (Internet) among and between (a) diverse point-of-service (POS) devices, such as laptops, smartphones and tablets and (b) network members, including content providers (CP) and end-user service providers (USP).
  • ITEGA NETWORK — A special-purpose network that securely transfers information among and between network members, including content providers, end-user service providers, network operators and network service providers. Operating commercially by contractors to the ITE Governing Authority.


We’re gathering input from the advertising community about two aspects of the ITE intiative:

  1.  If we could develop a standard taxonomy for user attributes — demographics, preferences, interests, intentions — what would it consist of? For our current thinking follow this link.
  2. What are the minimum number/type user attributes that an agency exchange or DMP’s would want to be able to pull from an API into a user-data exchange certified by ITEGA?

We imagine that each end-user who is tied to an ITE service provider/presenter (like a publisher) will be identified uniquely by means of a “persona” data file which consists of as many as 100 or more attributes or as few as one or none, depending on the user’s level of specific “opt-in.” We want to give publishers the opportunity manage first-party relationships with their subscribers/readers/viewers/users that can be then shared on a permissioned basis with other publishers, marketer sand brands. 

We could use your guidance in two ways:

  • Who, or what, currently comes closest in the marketplace to what we’re talking about?
  • Who should we talk to to make sure we have the best advice on assembling the right persona buckets, and interest categories within each?
  • Is a 501(c)3 public-benefit nonprofit organization (like the Mozilla Foundation and ICANN) an appropriate governing and certifying organization?

Please contact us or send along ideas with THIS FORM.


Setting the table: In 2015, the Reynolds Journalism Institute set the ITEGA idea in motion; review its intentions    You can also read our mission and vision.

  • Helping users regain control of their privacy and identity
  • Help publishers to improve the relevance and value of advertising through deeper knowledge about their users 
  • Move toward a platform where a “fast pass for news” is possible without a dependence on the tech platform companies.

Through multiple task-group meetings, we’ve developed a concept for putting the management of user data back under the control users and publishers, rather than ad-tech and the technology platforms. Our intentions:

  • To foster a non-proprietary universal-ID ecosystem, governed by a nonprofit, that will allow end users to have a single place to manage their persona(s) and selectively share attributes with third parties 
  • To cut down on the amount of cookies and code on browsers which is slowing down the user experience and driving ad-blocker adoption.
  • To make it easier for quality publishers to offer high-signal advertising options to advertisers/agencies aimed at cohorts of individuals with like interests or intentions.


If you have thoughts on these intentions we’d love to hear them (link): 

  1. Would standards for user identity, and an independent infrastructure for sharing of user attributes, be preferable to the current ad-hoc industry structure? 
  2. What would you need the standards to support? 
  3. Would you be willing to engage with an independent not-for-profit organization serving as a clearinghouse for standardized and segmented user data?
  4. Should user data be distributed, or centralized?  Should identity and preference information for your users be stored by the non-profit, vs. on your own network?
  5. Do you think that standards for sharing user identity and managing privacy should also enable the aggregated exchange of value (e.g. paying for ads, or subscribing to content)