Summit Snapshot: Navigating Privacy Challenges in the World of Connected Devices

March 5, 2024

Big idea: Successful navigation relies on collaboration – and having a common language provided by new DAA best practices for extending consumer privacy notice and choice in connected device advertising environments.

Robert Hartwell, counsel, Venable LLP moderates a DAA Summit 23 panel centered around connected devices. Immediately following the summit, DAA announced best practices for connected devices in alignment with DAA Principles.

As the digital landscape expands to include an ever-growing number of internet-connected devices – smart appliances, audio and video streaming devices, etc. – companies and consumers face unique challenges in adoption of and access to privacy best practices. How should companies operationalize data stewardship and privacy protections, in contracts and practice, among brands, platforms and device manufacturers? How should consumers receive notice, enhanced notice, and access controls for any interest-based advertising? In a panel led by Venable’s Robert Hartwell; Rachel Glasser, chief privacy officer at Magnite; and Laura Koulet, head of legal at Experian; they shed light on the intricacies of dealing with connected devices and how their teams navigate these challenges to ensure compliance with industry best practices.

The New Frontier of Connected Devices and Identifiers

In today's technologically advanced world, connected devices have become ever-present, offering valuable data and insights for advertisers as well as convenience and relevance for consumers, according to the panelists. However, with these devices come a plethora of user identifiers, such as IP addresses, email addresses and others, in these emerging new connected contexts – often with multiple parties having shared interest in data collection and use – which require novel approaches to enabling transparency and control for consumers. Glasser emphasized the need to work closely with partner companies to implement effective mechanisms for user opt-outs (or opt-ins, in some instances) and ensure transparency in data collection, ahead of or at the point of contact with a consumer.

Novelties of Connected Devices

“We really respond to the market,” Koulet said as she discussed how market demand drives integrations of new ideas on different platforms. However, with this integration comes the task of understanding how to handle new identifiers and consumer tracking mechanisms responsibly, she said. Experian responds to these challenges by developing consumer rights portals as well as enabling users to exercise their choices and opt-out, thereby providing user privacy controls among devices.

Laura Koulet, head of legal, Experian speaking on market demands where connected devices and advertising are in play. 

Operationalizing Privacy for Connected Devices

Rachel Glasser, chief privacy officer, Magnite, discusses the emergence of new state laws and a continuing need for industry self-regulatory best practices.

Translating privacy regulations and best practices into operational regimes for connected devices requires collaboration between various teams, including engineering and product, among all the advertising players. Glasser describes the importance of finding a balance between complying with various state laws, such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which present a patchwork of requirements depending on one’s role in the advertising ecosystem. “A lot of the [CCPA] requirements turn on whether there's an actual disclosure of data...So you're not sharing it or selling it unless it's been disclosed or made available,” Glasser said. She additionally recommends adhering to industry best practices such as Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) Principles. Collaborative efforts help identify bright-line rules for operationalization and enhance compliance across platforms, she noted. These efforts also benefit from complementary industry best practices which provide more consumer-focused protocols for privacy engagement – the AdChoices icon being first among them.

Contractual Negotiations: DAA Principles Provide a Common Language

Contract negotiations for fair information use on connected devices can be complex, with various parties interpreting privacy requirements differently. Hartwell describes the importance of establishing a common language through industry best practices as “...something that we hope would come out of these practices…” such as DAA Principles, to ease contract discussions. Addressing disclosure requirements, opt-out mechanisms, and enhanced notice provisions becomes crucial in contracts, ensuring effective transparency and user control.

Enhanced Notice and Privacy Compliance for Connected Devices: A “How To’ Is in the Works

As connected devices offer new challenges, implementing enhanced notice becomes vital. Glasser discussed how QR codes, icons, and mobile app integrations can enhance user awareness of data collection practices. Magnite ensures that disclosures are made available where practical and that privacy policies reflect the company's commitment to user privacy by balancing legal requirements and operational realities.

The DAA will soon announce creative implementation guidelines that will facilitate adherence with the new best practices, based on a working group and feedback from industry leaders. Their work should result shortly in a guidance document that is similar to DAA’s existing guidance for desktop, mobile and video environments.

Evolving Strategies in the Connected World

Connected devices present exciting opportunities for advertisers, content creators, and consumers, but also pose novel challenges for establishing a privacy dialogue between brands, device manufacturers and consumers. Insights from the panel exemplify the importance of collaborative efforts, practical solutions, and industry best practices to navigate the complexities of these new media by prioritizing user privacy, transparency, and control. DAA participants Magnite and Experian remain at the forefront of the digital advertising industry, while seeking to ensure responsible data collection and usage across connected devices through best practices. As privacy regulations evolve and enforcement actions take shape, the world of connected devices will continue to adapt. DAA’s continued work in this area provides an invaluable resource for all industry players.

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