Transparency of the data market in a post-GDPR world


When GDPR rolled out 4 months ago, the whole industry was hyperventilating and some feared the programmatic advertising trade would come to a full stop if the consumers’ consents for the use of data would not be obtained. Most of the fears were initially exaggerated, since the behavior of consumers does not change overnight as a new regulation comes into force.

Suspicious players out of the market?

At Relevant, we were convinced that GDPR would free the market of the most suspicious players. However, it seems that there hasn’t been any change in the situation. As an example of this, here is a Data Provider from Eastern Europe who sent us an inquiry:

They said that they have large audiences from the Nordic countries and they collect data from a variety of sources (publishers, technology vendors, advertisers, networks) by using cookies, device identifiers, and fingerprinting. They also said they fully comply with GDPR and had obtained an external statement to support this view. The statement somewhat watered down when it stated that the data collected by the methods mentioned above are not personal data, as it does not have information directly linked to the person, but merely an alphanumeric identifier.

Article 4 of the Data Protection Regulation states: “’’personal data’ means any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person (‘data subject’); an identifiable natural person is one who can be identified, directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to an identifier such as a name, an identification number, location data, an online identifier or to one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity of that natural person; “

Obscure advertisers come with surprises?

When we started to research the company further, we found out even more alarming information. This market player does not have their data collection scripts on any Finnish websites, so these sites could not have been the source of the data. We also found a study that reveals the company’s script exploits vulnerabilities in the browsers’ password extensions to collect email addresses and Facebook tags. With further research we noticed the same company has also their own programmatic purchasing system in use. In fact, we have come across this system in several cases when we have had to block suspicious ads that have been showing on several websites via programmatic purchasing channels.

It’s about a cat-mouse play – when they are blocked from buying, they will soon start buying advertising under a new name. These advertisements are of such quality that practically none of the publishers are willing to allow them on their sites. The vague advertisements have one main purpose; to get access to the data that comes with advertising calls. If they win the auction, they will assumably have their own tracking scripts in the ad, which allows them to grab a larger amount of data from the site.

When an ad is offered for programmatic purchase, the ad call will be accompanied by data that allows buyers to decide whether they are interested in that ad impression or not. When  the data is shared in a programmatic ecosystem, it is practically impossible to control what happens thereafter. This makes it possible for these type of market players to exist.

What should be done then?

Using high-quality data in advertising improves the results significantly and in programmatic advertising it is worthwhile using data. When choosing the partners, it is best to ensure the provider’s trustworthiness and their compliance with the regulations. The aforementioned example of a data provider appears to be trustworthy on the outside, but when looking beyond the surface, there are several obscurities. Trusted partners can always clarify how the data has been collected and give answers to your questions.

Publishers, be mindful of who you are giving the access to your data via programmatic. It is recommended to have a tool to block unwanted scripts completely. This ensures the unauthorized third parties cannot access valuable data.

Segments for advertisers

Relevant Audience is a premium data marketplace which aims to offer high quality segmented data, delivered to advertisers through the preferred DSP. Our data sources comply with the requirements of the EU Data Protection Regulation and the segments are built from data whose use is permitted. Therefore you can safely utilize our segments through Adform DSP, Google display & video 360 and Appnexus. In addition to the standard audience segments, we tailor segments to meet the needs of the advertisers.

Check out our offering on the Segment Finder or read more..

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