It's a Match: Online Publishers Increasingly Track You with 1st and 3rd Party Data Sources [annals of digital surveillance]

The data collection on individuals is accelerating, who increasingly find themselves in a maze constructed of their online and offline information.  This can affect how creditors and others view your financial status--and has real-life implications for a consumer's future prospects.  Later this week, USPIRG and my CDD will present a paper on this issue at a conference hosted by the National Consumer Law Center and Suffolk University Law School.  Meanwhile, here is an excerpt from a recent industry post that illustrate part of the problem [my bold]:

Publishers use of data, including offline and tracking cookies:   "In addition to display advertising, premium content, and lead generation models, a new revenue stream has recently opened to publishers thanks to the explosive growth of exchange based audience targeting, and that is, data... Today, there is a massive data marketplace for virtually any kind of data an advertiser might want ... What publishers may not realize though, is that they have the opportunity to sell data into this marketplace, as well as buy it to increase the value of their own display banners.  That’s how most of the data is produced online today – data aggregators partner with thousands of sites that specialize in a niche topic and can identify one particular audience, and then combine every publisher’s audience into a single product.  The data aggregators pay the publishers on a cost per unique basis, and then sell the data to advertisers and charge them on a usage basis...

Even publishers that may not necessarily have a specific type of audience they can identify may still have a revenue opportunity in the data space by becoming a match partner.  Simply put, a match partner provides the mechanism to bring offline data online.  To be a match partner, publishers have to be able to tie personally identifiable information (PII) like first name, last name, email address, zip code, and other attributes that define a person to a cookie, and on a regular basis.  Think about sites that have large email subscription databases, or on-site registration databases – many of these kinds of publishers have either enormous audiences, general audiences, or both.  In either case, monetizing on-site ad inventory can be a challenge for these broad publishers, because their primary value proposition is reach, which is less and less valuable as exchange buying becomes more common.

As a match partner, publishers allow a separate company to place a cookie on their site, and pass a unique user ID to that company.  Then, the publisher sends a table to the third party data company that maps the anonymous user ID to the user’s personal information.   The data company can now use their cookies with this PII attached to help advertisers with offline data bring their data online.  The advertiser, perhaps a retailer, typically has a large database of customers and valuable information about their purchase behavior, but no way to know who those people online.  The advertiser has PII, but no cookie, so they provide their customer database to the data company, which matches the PII from the advertiser’s database to the PII they received from many publisher match partners, and eventually to a cookie.  Now, the data company can sync their cookie with the advertiser’s DSP cookie, and finally enable the advertiser to use their offline data to target the same people online.  In fact, the data company can usually add other attributes to the data, such as demographic and psychographic elements, because they likely already have a profile on that user from their own offline data sources.

  PS:  We have to add this oxymoronic statement from Google as it discussed its work to more accurately measure our behavior so it can help "unlock the next $50 billion of opportunity for digital advertising."  They asked:  "How do we deliver those immersive, interactive experiences to today's empowered consumer..."

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