PubMatic, along with AdTruth and TRUSTe, introduced an innovative privacy technology solution at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity on June 20, 2013. The technology pairing is the brainchild of PubMatic’s Bob Walczak, born from Bob’s prior experiences in the industry, and from recognizing the importance of meeting consumer demand for transparent digital privacy choices.
Q: Tell us a little about your background in the industry.
BW: I was the founder and CEO of Ringleader Digital from 2005 until June of 2011. Ringleader was a mobile ad-server and mediation platform, with a device identification technology called Media Stamp. It was a powerful technology which allowed you to uniquely and persistently identify any device regardless of cookie capabilities. We were offering it to the marketplace as an advantage for targeting and analytics on our platform and for other platforms.
Q: In your time in the industry, how have you seen concerns about privacy develop?
BW: I founded Ringleader at age 25, and though I knew about the privacy issues surrounding cookies, I didn’t get a full education on privacy until Media Stamp had become widely used across the market by top publishers and brands. Media Stamp was a first of its kind identification technology, launched in 2008 as an alternative to cookies, since they don’t work consistently on mobile devices. This wide adoption led to us being served with a privacy lawsuit in 2010. We weren’t doing anything illicit with the technology, but the suit stemmed from the lack of privacy guidelines governing the use of alternative identification technology. Had I known then what I know now, I would have proactively sought an industry wide solution to these privacy challenges.
Q: What was the biggest lesson learned?
BW: Fast forward to me joining PubMatic; device identification is still a fragmented market. My view was if we were going to enter this market, and do it in the right way, we needed to be the leaders in advocating for an open solution for the industry to protect consumer privacy and provide them with persistent privacy options.
The Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) has now produced an excellent set of privacy guidelines, and a framework to honor consumer privacy choices. While these guidelines address the rules around protecting consumer privacy they don’t offer a real world technology solution that instructs how a company should pair a privacy systems with any identification system.
Q: So why are you working with other technology companies on these solutions?
BW: We are doing this for multiple reasons. The first is technical. It’s the combination of the approaches being implemented by AdTruth and TRUSTe that allow us to achieve the privacy technology solution. However, the solution we built is modular meaning any privacy system or identification technology that meets the DAA requirements can be implemented in place of TRUSTe or AdTruth.
The concept behind our work with AdTruth and TRUSTe is to pair a device identification system that allows publishers to serve relevant content to users, with a privacy system that gives transparency and privacy choices to the consumer. The key is that the privacy system has to be deterministic; meaning that if that user has opted out their privacy choice will be honored 100% of the time. The identification technology can be either deterministic or probabilistic. Putting these two systems together is the technology solution that we are advocating for.
The second reason, which I feel is the more important one, is that taking consumer privacy seriously must be an industry wide effort. Without broad support from multiple vendors, what we are doing here isn’t going to achieve much. Ultimately, we want consumers to be comfortable with how privacy standards are implemented.
Q: How does leading this effort fit with PubMatic’s goals?
BW: At PubMatic we serve premium publishers. We need to ensure that we are protecting both the publisher and the consumer in the course of doing business. This is not only about the trust that we have with our clients, but it is also about the trust that these brands have built with their customers. Based on my experience I believe the right thing to do here is to lead by example; ensuring we do it in an open, honest, and inviting way that brings everyone on board.