Forget TCF, Let’s Get Radical and Give Consumers Real Control Instead

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By Keith Petri, CEO, lockr

The Ad Tech industry took notice a few weeks ago when the Belgian Data Protection Authority ruled that the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) Transparency and Consent Framework (TCF), the consent management platform promising advertisers they can track European Internet users without sweating EU privacy laws, is unlawful and breaks GDPR rules. Massive fines are in the offing and thousands of advertisers are likely affected. It’s a real mess for all involved.

While TCF trouble is huge news and a big headache for the $445 billion global ad industry, it remains to be seen if the collective response will be a wholesale regrouping to rethink flouting people’s privacy or will we all just figure out a short-term fix and do more of the same?

Here’s a Radical Idea Instead: Let’s get serious about giving consumers real choice and putting them in control of their identity, data and consent. Hear me out.

All serious companies have consent management platforms or CMPs, which is basically the technical infrastructure businesses use to collect and store data that consumers have “agreed” to share, whether they realize it or not.

But consumers don’t have a CMP. In fact, they are usually unaware of what data is being collected and by whom and how it’s being used. We need to change that and make it enticing for consumers to get on board.

The deprecation of cookies and identifiers is making this need even more urgent. Soon we won’t be able to use cookies as a crutch to track users — and plenty of brands are getting ready by accelerating their email collection efforts.

For example, more and more brands and merchants are starting to put content behind a registration wall. That chair or pair of shoes you want from an online retailer? You can’t even look at it or the different types of fabric and colors, etc. without giving away your email.

Retailers would rather forego the sale opportunity than let you look at what other products you could buy. And many, many other sites are doing the same thing. Imagine walking down 5th Ave and not being allowed inside the storefronts without presenting ID at the door resulting in an ever-increasing amount of snail mail via the post.

Consumers meanwhile, are drowning in email. And they’re fighting against authentication registration with burner email services. So yes, you can collect emails but increasingly they are useless. Identity resolution services all rely on having the same email address in two different places. And we have only ourselves to blame for consumers taking things into their own hands. It’s not an overstatement to say that this entire cat and mouse game threatens the free and open ad-supported internet.

We need to stop saying consumers are not smart enough. We need to stop pushing them to the side and strong-arming them. They’ve been left out of the equation since the internet was invented.

They need control. They need disclosure — and every solution that’s been brought up is just another whack-a-mole. Consumers need a consent management platform that’s on their side, not the advertiser’s.

Here’s the thing — too many adtech companies are trying to maintain the status quo (and the arms race that goes with it) that we’ve all lived with for 15+ years. Increasing consumer awareness represents a unique opportunity to completely redefine the stakeholders of the internet and rethink it from square one so consumers control their own data.

After all, consumers like marketing if it gives them something they want.

We all have a vested interest making our industry to work. Let’s collectively work to give consumer’s control for real, which we know the average internet user cares more about than TCF and privacy.

About the Author

Keith Petri is CEO of lockr, the first the first consumer-focused platform for identity, consent and data.