February 3, 2020

Acxiom backs GDPR solution to adtech’s data crisis

Data giant Acxiom has thrown its hat in the ring to try to find a solution to the adtech realtime bidding (RTB) headache by joining forces with two organisations to draw up plans to use GDPR safeguards to protect consumers from “the mass unlawful use” of their personal data.

The IPG-owned company, which has not escaped criticism of its own operations, has collaborated with tech firm Anonos and think-tank the Information Accountability Foundation to form the “5th Cookie” working group.
The triumvirate wants to explore how advertisers can use GDPR recommended technical and organisational safeguards to enforce greater accountability and ethics across the RTB ecosystem.

The organisations see their approach as a viable alternative to Google’s proposed “walled garden” and the IAB UK’s plan to simply tighten up contractual terms and conditions.

While they concede these two proposals have merit, the 5th Cookie working group believe that their “third way” should also be evaluated. If a decision is made to go with one of the other proposals, the trio believes it should be a conscious decision, after evaluating the merits of all alternatives, including consideration and evaluation of a GDPR influenced model.

For illustration purposes, the group says the 5th Cookie should be seen as a prime retail space in a shopping centre, with, for instance, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Google also allocated a space (cookie).

The 5th Cookie (or some other limited number of cookies) would be permissible for a non-walled garden alternative that supports a democratised co-operative approach to advertising. This embraces technology solutions such as GDPR compliant pseudonymisation and data protection by design that enforce controls.

The working group insist their model is proof that legitimate interest-based adtech processing is possible. They argue that, as a result, everyone interested in ethical data stewardship, from the smallest players to the largest brands, can participate in digital marketing.

They say that consumers could be reached by advertisers as members of small, dynamically changing groups called micro-segments. Each micro-segment would represent the individuals included within the group, and based on individual characteristics, consumers could be included in multiple micro-segments. The composition of micro-segments would change dynamically to reflect the individuals, corresponding to the specified characteristics associated with the micro-segment.

They say it would then be possible for advertisers to reach groups of people representing the segments in which they are interested. However, consumers would be approached as members of groups and not as individuals. It would be up to each consumer to identify themselves if they want to respond to an advertisement. At any time, they could opt out of being included in further micro-segments-based marketing and outreach.

Acxiom European privacy officer Dr Sachiko Scheuing said: “Augmenting the options of walled gardens and contract-focused solutions with GDPR pseudonymisation-enabled micro segmentation techniques is consistent with the principles embodied in Acxiom’s Ethics by Design framework.

“The 5th Cookie model could provide consumers with better choices and options. Acxiom has a vested interest in ensuring that data flows around the adtech space in a way that complies with legislation and achieves ethical use of data to be used to provide both maximum value and privacy for consumers.”

IAF executive director and chief strategist Martin Abrams added:”There is a growing sense that observation, while necessary for many applications to work, is out of control, creating new dangers for individuals and society. The 5th Cookie model could enable a model for policymakers to differentiate persuasive, communication-based, targeted marketing of products and services, from persuasive communication-driven analytics that is potentially toxic.

“This can be achieved by delivering ‘demonstrable accountability’, leveraging auditable and documented technical safeguards that regulators can use to verify compliance. In today’s data-driven world, new technical measures are necessary to balance data innovation and the assurance of the full range individual rights because consent by itself is no longer enough.”


This article originally appeared in DecisionMarketing.  All trademarks are the property of their respective owners. All rights reserved by the respective owners.


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