How the CTV Sector Is Bracing Itself for the Upcoming Privacy Overhaul

Tech providers step in to help the TV sector juggle opportunity and responsibility

A lock symbol appears on a lighted TV screen atop other TVs.
Recent survey findings suggest consumers preferred to have their data locked down if the value exchange is not well communicated. Getty Images
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Pick up just about any survey or predictions paper for the advertising industry in 2020, and it can all feel like a case of whiplash: excitement over connected television and caution around privacy legislation.

As a measure of the technology’s growth, the few remaining publicly traded ad-tech companies used their latest earnings calls to speak effusively of how CTV is spurring their fortunes and point to independent analyses to back this glowing outlook.

However, the rising tide of privacy has also ushered in a mentality of “caution first” among some in the media landscape, as legislation across the globe underlines the importance of data stewardship.

In the CTV space, U.S. federal authorities set the scene in 2017 by issuing a $1.5 million fine to TV manufacturer Vizio for recording audience data without consumer consent, and the Federal Trade Commission later issued guidance for responsible data collection.

Speaking with Adweek earlier in the year, Ameet Shah, senior director of global technology and data strategy at Prohaska Consulting, warned that further congressional inquiries into the TV industry’s incursion upon citizen’s living rooms were likely on the way.

As the industry continues to implement its digital transformation–OpenAP launched its marketplace offering earlier this week–multiple trade organizations are attempting to bridge the divide between the pillars of freewheeling opportunity and the more somber prospect of responsibility.

In this vein, the IAB Tech Lab is currently constructing a consent-signaling framework (primarily to facilitate the use of ad tech in compliance with data laws) ahead of the enactment of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in January 2020. The challenge, and importance, of which was recently highlighted in a BritePool survey indicating that 87% of consumers would opt out of ad targeting under CCPA terms.

Jessica Lee, co-chair of privacy, security and innovation at law firm Loeb & Loeb, told Adweek how establishing (and transmitting) consumer consent in the CTV space represents an extra layer of complexity compared to desktop advertising, primarily because of the absence of cookies.

She advised that those looking to experiment with CTV need to examine the technology at work on their supply chain, including how well their partners can pseudonymize (i.e., encrypt) personally identifiable information (PII).

“The fact they are collecting personal information [including household-level data] means they [all players in the value chain] have to communicate this with consumers,” she added, advising this applies under both CCPA and the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Most privacy policies don’t address addressable

For its part, Tru Optik, a data-management platform specializing in CTV, has introduced a privacy-compliance tool dubbed Privacy.TV, which it claims will help advertisers adhere to CCPA requirements.

This includes a framework for a consumer disclosure statement, opt-in and opt-out processes and a regularized audit of consumer permissions, according to Tru Optik CEO Andre Swanston.

“Privacy compliance across CTV is broken … Most publishers, data providers, ad-tech platforms and device manufacturers are ill-equipped to honor consumers’ growing demand for transparency,” he added.

A recent economic impact assessment of CCPA compliance estimated that the introduction of the legislation could cost U.S. businesses $55 billion, but Tru Optik is introducing the tool for free to encourage usage of its 80-million-household graph.

Swanston further explained the rationale for making the service available for free, adding that “most people out there don’t have the proactive capabilities to address CTV in the right way.”

He added, “We are the most distributed data marketplace among the CTV ecosystem … so we need to be able to show that we can support this in a safe and transparent way so that we can support our entire business.”

To add an extra assurances, the new tool will also use the ID database of credit-scoring company TransUnion, which Tru Optik and TransUnion say will place an additional layer of anonymity between advertisers and PII.

Matt Spiegel, evp of marketing solutions and head of media vertical for TransUnion, said the method would facilitate brands’ increasing desire to use third-party data cross-referenced with their own first-party data to buy media while honoring their legal requirements.

Swanston also added that targeting towards individualized IDs, such as email addresses, etc., on CTV is of limited use given that such devices are typically “shared devices” among most households.

Jessica Berman, senior product manager at SpotX, described how CCPA and GDPR made privacy a key area of focus among outfits such as her own—which uses a solution called Audience Lock to strip ad requests of PII—as well as device manufacturers.

“CTV devices are not ‘cookie-able’ devices [and this] has forced media owners and buyers to look for alternative ways to hypertarget audiences without exposing data,” she said.

“We are actively working with the IAB to create industry standards that will enable technology vendors to understand if and when a user has opted out of having their data processed, sold or used for targeted ads, and that the end user has been provided with the explicit notice that their data will be shared.

“As a future looking initiative, we will look to create industry standards specific to CTV devices that do not have the same standards as desktop and mobile devices,” said Berman.

Meanwhile, one source who requested anonymity because of referencing competitors, noted how players such as WarnerMedia-owner AT&T and its addressable advertising outfit Xandr, plus Ampersand (formerly NCC Media), are well placed to manage permissions.

“Those that own the data and control inventory are in a strong position. However, if consumers have to opt in, it will place another hurdle to the reach and capacity of inventory that’s addressable,” they concluded.

@ronan_shields Ronan Shields is a programmatic reporter at Adweek, focusing on ad-tech.