Q&A: Google’s Chetna Bindra on the Importance of Transparency in Digital Advertising

Hear her speak at Adweek's NexTech event on July 25

Headshot of Chetna Bindra
'We need to find a way for users to continue to access ad-supported content on the web, while also feeling confident that their privacy is protected,' Bindra says. Google
Headshot of Josh Sternberg

When you have “User Trust, Privacy and Transparency” in your title, you have to have more than a passing knowledge of not only the broad advertising and media ecosystems but also a nuanced understanding of regulations.

Oh, and when you have this title at Google, and youre responsible for setting product vision and strategy across Google’s engineering, product, commercialization, sales, marketing and policy teams for digital advertising, you have to have some smarts.

Chetna Bindra, Google’s senior product manager for user trust, privacy and transparency, holds a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Pennsylvania and sits at an interesting intersection of ad tech and policy. She talks about how transparency and trust are of utmost importance, that “without trust, the ad-supported internet is at risk.”

Come hear Bindra have a conversation with ad-tech reporter Ronan Shields at Adweek’s NexTech event in NYC on July 25. 

Adweek: What’s your biggest pain point when it comes to ad tech?
Chetna Bindra: I worry that, across the industry, we’re not going far enough when it comes to giving people visibility into, or control over, their ad experiences. As an industry, we need to restore people’s confidence and trust. To put it bluntly, without trust, the ad-supported internet is at risk.

The ad-tech ecosystem needs to work for everyone involved: users, publishers and advertisers. Users need to feel like they are getting value from the ads they are shown and enjoy access to quality, ads-supported content on the open web, publishers need to get compensated for the content they create, and advertisers need to be able to reach people interested in what they have to offer.

We need to find a way for users to continue to access ad-supported content on the web, while also feeling confident that their privacy is protected. And this needs to be an industry movement. No one company has the power to make this change for the industry. We all need to do more to create transparency in an ad ecosystem that is complex and often opaque.

Where do you see opportunity?
If transparency into the ad experience is a pain point, it’s also an opportunity. If we can increase trust and understanding around ads for users, we can restore confidence in this industry and continue to grow and evolve, alongside consumers and technology. For example, people want to know more about how their data is used to personalize advertising on the internet. That means helping users easily understand how data is being used for ads—including what data is collected and who’s collecting it. And that also means respecting user choices and prevent any attempts to bypass those choices. And giving users control over their personal data—including who has access to it, how long it’s stored, and how it’s used.

What’s a trend that marketers need to approach differently?
Marketers want to reach users interested in what they have to offer. There is a natural tendency for marketers to collect as much data as they can across the entire funnel. It is important for marketers to think differently about the data they collect—can they be more transparent to the user about what they are collecting, and why; can they be more thoughtful about how they collect the data; can they be more resourceful in how they use data to reach their audience; and can they be privacy safe when managing customer data.

What do the next 12 months look like for ad tech?
In the next 12 months, privacy concerns aren’t going to go away. I think we expect more attention on this area from both users and regulators, and the industry needs to be on the right side of this.

Google famously has its 20% time [that employees can devote to creative projects]. What do you do with yours?
I am not currently using it for a traditional 20% project that many Googlers do. However, I am a huge fan of continued learning—have been spending some of that time learning a lot more about federated learning. It is certainly an interesting area and am excited about delving deeper into it. Outside that, I spend a lot of time mentoring—am extremely dedicated to building inclusive environments and spend a lot of time on mentoring women.

@joshsternberg Josh Sternberg is the former media and tech editor at Adweek.