A level data playing field

Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, they’re all getting bigger with data, often at the expense of smaller companies. Apple can now say they now have an advertising platform based on first party data. Like Google or Facebook, they can say “to use our data you need to advertise with us”. Being transparent would be to say their privacy moves are more driven by commercial interests than consumer protection. Several sessions and panels at this year’s Web Summit heavily criticized the tech giants’ moves in this space. What the marketing and tech industries want is a fair game, a level playing field, with services allowing first-party data holders to monetize in a clean, transparent and cohesive environment.

The problem with privacy isn’t data collection, it’s the transparency around its usage. With iOS 14 and 15 changes, we’re all being asked whether we want tracking but at the end of the day that’s not the question that should be asked right now. It’s not about whether we want advertising either, there will be advertising no matter what. It’s basically whether we want our data to be used to deliver personalized advertising instead of less targeted messages. Transparency would be asking that question openly first.

The average person doesn’t want to read pages and pages of consent forms for every website they visit. Realistically users opt into stuff that they have no idea about. Even when they agree to personalized advertising, they don’t actually realise what this entails and where their data goes. It’s unreasonable to expect otherwise and this makes regulatory frameworks looking at what’s in the consumer’s best interest absolutely essential.

Right foot forward

What we’re starting to see is big tech make big tech be more accountable for data abuses. Like King Kong vs Godzilla, in a match between Apple and Facebook or Google. A battle to see who’s going to be the most accountable around personal data. Behind this façade, Facebook, Google and ultimately Apple aim for a monopoly or at least as dominant a position as possible through consolidation, which eventually will cause more legal issues. Despite mounting legislation, not enough has been done to sort of redress the harms of data abuse, not even GDPR.

The abuses from tech giants need legal consequences because people’s consent doesn’t stretch to the extent to which their data is being traded. They certainly don’t have knowledge of this and wouldn’t consent if they did.

That doesn’t mean data-driven advertising has no raison d’etre. It certainly funds creators, content and services. There are ways to serve private ads to people matched where their data originates. The future of data may well be federated, accessible to all, or no-one, to force big tech to open their walled gardens. Data collection would then be for the common good, transparent and universal.


Towards a fairer exchange
Federated data protects the integrity of consumer information and helps first-party data holders monetize it safely and ethically. People can more readily understand and accept this individual personalized matching. With federated learnings, there’ll be ways to get recommendations from what people like us liked or bought without requiring the release of our full profiles.

People do not want to be abused by these platforms or unknown third parties that prey on them. What’s in it for them? They’re giving it away for free every time they transact, without giving consent for anything else. Yet, for each user, Facebook makes $51 a year from their data, even though they don’t produce it. People do but get nothing from it. What if they did get a portion of the value their data creates. They could earn enough money every day to at least pay for groceries and make sure that their families have their most basic human rights protected. It’s a much more serious conversation about how technology can actually empower people.

There are companies starting to emerge to help people reclaim that data. If people owned and monetized their own data, there would be a lot less angst about it being used in marketing.