Data diligence

Weve managing director Martin Weller looks at transparency, verification and consent in the year of GDPR.

The GDPR bell has tolled, marking permanent changes to data collection as we know it. The ad-tech space has already seen a number of casualties: with risks of non-compliance so high, vendors not meeting GDPR requirements are dropping out of the market or fundamentally changing their offering to avoid legal challenges.

Now more than ever, brands and players in the ecosystem have to deliver complete transparency and real perceived value if they are to be given consent to use people’s personal data in return. How do we achieve this? Three key industry issues underpin this new era in personal data protection: transparency, verification and consent.

The conversation around transparency isn’t new, but it has become business-critical this year. One of the industry’s latest initiatives in achieving transparency is the IAB Gold Standard, designed to raise standards in digital advertising by addressing key issues including ad fraud, brand safety and ad blocking. It does this by pulling together three existing initiatives: ads.txt, JICWEBS DTSG and the Coalition for Better Advertisings Better Ad Standards.

By raising standards and weeding out bad practices, consumers and brands will be better placed to benefit from improved advertising experiences and confident in brand-safe environments, something which Weve is committed to as a founding Gold Standard member.

Initiatives like this are placing the onus on data providers for greater transparency, but do you know where your suppliers’ data comes from? Many providers’ inability to obtained named consent from publishers to legally use their data has led to a number of ad tech players leaving the market in the run up to GDPR.

Weve has always, and will always, be clear on exactly where our data comes from. Backed by O2, one of the UK’s largest telcos, we see 2bn data events per day – that’s 100 times per person (up to 20 times that of other mobile players). These network events combine to create the most comprehensive, end-to-end view of our customers in market, and this first-party, telco-derived data forms the basis of our market-leading audience intelligence, mobile-led media, and award-winning measurement. Can all of your suppliers say the same?

At the core of verification is the identification of real people and their behaviours. For advertisers, the benefits of audience verification are immediate, leading to less audience waste and in turn, more budget for the platforms, tactics and campaigns that are effective. But as the wider digital ecosystem continues its seismic growth, there is an increasing need for better control and improved safety measures: in terms of mobile advertising specifically, it’s critical that measurement options keep pace.

An area that has grown significantly in recent years is mobile location targeting, accounting for over 42 per cent of total mobile ad spend in 2018. But alongside its growth is a rising industry trend of mistrust in the accuracy and efficacy of location-based data sources: 65 per cent of marketers have expressed concern around the quality of location data available in the market, and it is widely perceived that up to 80 per cent may be imprecise or fraudulent.

While most location providers rely on probabilistic modelling and pattern recognition to address this, Weve’s telco backing provides a truth set to verify against. Using anonymised and aggregated O2-owned audience data, we verify location accuracy by comparing aggregated scores for app publisher GPS signals with the location of phones connected to any of O2’s UK cell towers. Aggregating millions of location signal comparisons enables us to index the sources of location data and score the quality of location signals, enabling us to eliminate bad data and unreliable sources and ensuring the verified location behaviours of audiences are reflected in campaign delivery and attribution. After all, ad verification is quite simply about ensuring that as a brand, you get what you pay for.

Many aspects of GDPR applicable to ad tech are still ‘open to interpretation’ but clear, explicit opt-in is undoubtedly the watertight method for operating within the confines of GDPR. Are you asking questions about the details of your suppliers’ consent? It’s important to understand the source of the consent, whether from apps, mobile web, the bid stream or an SDK. Some are taking a risk by solely operating under the cover of ‘Legitimate Interest’, but with this must come an explanation in their privacy policy, proving that processing the data is necessary, while balancing it against the individual’s interests, rights and freedoms.

Weve has always taken data protection and data security very seriously. In the lead up to GDPR, O2 undertook a compliance programme across the organisation to address the changes required by the implementation of GDPR. O2 communicated with all its customers to advise them of the change to data protection laws, and provided information on new data rights and O2’s Privacy Policy. Customers were contacted to confirm their marketing preferences which includes receiving marketing communications from O2 and Weve on behalf of advertisers.

As the dust settles post-GDPR, it’s increasingly clear that transparency, verification and consent will be the defining pillars of our industry for the future ahead. Providing the crucial bridge between consumers and devices, the connectivity that telcos generate has never been more valuable. Backed by O2, Weve is the only telco-backed media owner in the UK, and well placed to continue to confidently manage personal data protection to plan, execute and measure campaigns with confidence.