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The data privacy value exchange undermines publishers and eliminates consumer choice

September 4, 2019

Erik Matlick reflects on the evolution of the commercial internet since its inception over two decades ago. As data privacy becomes the glaring topic in Ad Tech, he asserts that providing consumers with choice will create a beneficial value exchange for all parties. 

Government, media outlets, and digital constituents alike have recently caused an eruption of paranoia amongst digital consumers regarding data privacy. As a result, diligent consumers have become aware of their rights and actions they can take when it comes to sharing their personal data. Yet, while educated, they are often given limited choices from web browsers. Choices are so limited, Erik Matlick claims, that they take advantage of the consumer and "treat [them] like small children who don't or can’t understand the concept of a value exchange".  

Historically, the value exchange between an online user and publisher came off as fair: the consumer would offer anonymized personal data in exchange for access to publisher content.  Now, three exchanges can be made available: a digital paywall, an email registration, and a cookie activation pop-up. Matlick claims that providing these options is perceived as far too complex to the browser platforms. So, browsers often resort to automatically disabling anonymous tracking, for the protection of both compliance and convenience. But does this remove the power of choice for consumers?

If all three of these forms of ‘currency’ (dollars, email opt-in, and cookie tracking) were offered, publishers would be able to hold on to significant revenue that has been sacrificed since data privacy laws were enacted. Matlick makes it a point to remind us that publishers are non-profits, and without them, the quality of our digital content would be highly compromised. Additionally, digitally adept consumers deserve this choice, rather than being overlooked for convenience sake.

Keeping with current rhetoric behind data privacy practices not only compromises publisher revenue and consumer choice, but it also allows for the powerful to gain more strength. As Matlick explains, the Googles, Amazons, and Facebooks of the world nurture their control and maintain their walled garden status.

“Amid the enacted and proposed changes to data collection, huge corporations like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and even Apple can keep collecting and using PII for all kinds of use cases (yes, Apple indeed uses data collected from its devices for marketing). These companies are not free from public and government scrutiny, but they are nowhere near as maligned as anonymous third-party cookies are at this current moment...It makes you wonder if we’ve lost perspective here,” explains Erik. 

While we (as consumers) may seemingly depend on the aforementioned media titans, their top priority is maintaining a competitive advantage in their industry and protecting their own revenues, not their consumers. Ultimately, as Erik explains that publisher dollars should not be lost for the sake of data compliance and, “there's an easy way to prevent this: let consumers choose what they feel is a fair value exchange for them.”

Parts of this post were first published on AdExchanger.