Ad Ops: The Unlikely GDPR Heroes

This article by Matt O’Neill, General Manager, Europe was originally published in Digital Content Next on February 6, 2018.

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10 actionable steps to charting a publisher’s course to digital GDPR compliance

Yes, it is the topic du jour, but somehow many are still adrift when it comes to the European Union’s impending General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which goes into effect on 25 May 2018—under 100 working days or five short months away. Countless articles summarise requirements into generalities covering organisation-wide data elements, such as customer, partner and vendor information. More often than not this approach doesn’t mean much to Ad/Revenue Operations (Ad Ops) professionals.

The Ad Ops Challenge

GDPR presents three significant hurdles to Ad Ops:

  1. Identifying known data collection activity;
  2. Confirming it is legitimate under GDPR (i.e. that the rules are being met); and
  3. Detecting and remediating unauthorised data collection, which is potentially considered a data breach.

The highly-dynamic and opaque nature of the digital ecosystem often means that all three of these hurdles are difficult to clear without adversely affecting a media publisher’s strategic revenue channel. So, the key issue to resolve is this: how does a publisher go about managing data in a GDPR-compliant way but without undermining its business model(s) and therefore its commercial viability?

The answer, as usual, is Ad Ops. For this group, GDPR presents an important opportunity. As the frontline of digital operations, Ad Ops professionals are in the unique position to influence, drive, and co-create strategies to protect and optimise revenue in the changing regulatory environment. In fact, they have a powerful legitimate reason to control audience data collection activities on their digital properties and demand compliance from upstream partners.

10 Steps to GDPR Compliance

The daily demands placed on Ad Ops can be overwhelming, with the complexities—and vagaries—of GDPR an unwelcome intrusion. But it’s a critical opportunity. Here’s a 10-step approach (with supporting GDPR references) towards GDPR compliance for media-oriented websites and mobile apps:

1. Participate in an internal GDPR Task Force [GDPR Articles 37-39]

Every business— large and small—should have a GDPR ‘Task Force’ or something similar. This could be organised by a senior data privacy leader, such as a Data Protection Officer (DPO), which is now a requirement for many organisations. The Task Force should be staffed with key personnel across the organisation who interact with any type of personal data, i.e. operations, IT, privacy and risk, security, HR etc, and should include individuals across strategic markets as the GDPR has a global reach (see GDPR Article 3). As part of the Task Force, Ad Ops can explain the role of consumer data in the digital environment to deliver user-specific content and advertisements and how it supports the publication’s mission and contributes to revenue.

It is important to understand that the scope of personal data is broader than under existing EU data protection law. Under Article 4 of the GDPR, personal data is defined as “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.”

To this extent, typical data collection, use and sharing activity generated from everyday access of websites and/or mobile apps for digital advertising purposes (i.e. cookie deployment or device identification) should be treated as personal data. Therefore, the term ‘non-Personally Identifiable Information’ should no longer exist as personal data under the GDPR is broader than PII, which is a significant change for digital advertising.

2.  Evaluate the Privacy Risks [GDPR Articles 25, 35 & 36]

The Task Force will probably be responsible for developing a centralised roadmap for the organisation’s digital data and designing the plans to implement necessary processes and changes (including budgetary considerations) required to comply with the new law. Many organisations will need to conduct a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA–a valuable  exercise for good data hygiene), mapping the kind of data collected and processed. Here’s a good template to follow[i].

The DPIA should enable revenue and Ad Ops teams to get up close and personal with all data collection and processing activities, and knowing with whom data is being shared. There are many companies that can assist with DPIAs to develop a point-in-time data picture, which is a critical start to identifying data in the publisher ecosystem. However, the ever-changing digital environment requires continuous monitoring for compliance in order to provide an audit trail or truly demonstrate ongoing compliance. The bottom line is that the GDPR seeks to introduce a ‘Privacy by Design’ approach: removing or minimising data or ‘pseudonymising’ it (e.g. hashing) to minimise the privacy risks.

3.  Create an Authorised Partner List [GDPR Article 30]

Accountability is a central theme within the GDPR: you are required to record and account for all data processing activities. Ultimately, publishers will need to know and understand what data is being collected and processed, and who it is shared with—a serious challenge for the dynamic digital environment.

This means Ad Ops needs to develop a list of all parties that execute on the website (including contracted second parties and any subsequent parties called during the rendering of the visitor experience), analyse digital behaviour to understand data collection or targeting needs, and block those that exhibit anomalous or unapproved activity.

Conducting a data audit, compiling inventory and documenting authorized partners is a good first step; however, these will have to be continuously evaluated with an eye towards changing partner activity, new digital supply chain partners, international data transfers and consumer understanding of tracking/identification and its value to the digital experience.

4.  Get Legal! [GDPR Article 6]

It may seem strange for Ad Ops teams to concern themselves with too many legalities, but with the GDPR it is imperative that those involved in data collection activities understand the consequences of their actions. The regulation outlines six legal bases to justify the processing of personal data:

  • the user’s consent (which is defined more stringently than under current data protection law)
  • the use of contracts involving the user
  • legal compliance (i.e. with another law)
  • protecting the interests of an individual
  • when it is in the public interest to do so
  • when it is the organisation’s legitimate interests to do so (provided it doesn’t override the rights of the individual)

Digital advertising will require the user’s consent, not least because it is required for the storing of information or gaining access to information already stored on a device—whether personal or not—(i.e. via a cookie) under the existing ePrivacy Directive (See Step 6.) This is where Ad Ops needs to work closely with the compliance teams: an innovative consent mechanism will be required for digital advertising activities. But, keep in mind that some data processing activities (e.g. for network security or when tackling fraud) may warrant different legal bases.

5.  Enforce Digital Partner Compliance [Articles 26-30]

The GDPR introduces obligations (and liability) for all organisations, whether a ‘data controller’ or ‘data processor’. Find out how data partners are preparing for the GDPR and establish a working group with key partners to discuss compliance strategies. This requires first knowing your upstream partners from SSPs and exchanges through to DMP and DSPs. Some data partners are likely to have to conduct a DPIA as well—guide the process for them. In time, revisit, review and adapt contracts or agreements with existing partners to ensure that shared obligations and responsibilities under the GDPR are accounted for and that partners are complying with digital asset policies for your company. If a partner chooses to not comply with your policies reconsider your relationship with them.

6.  Obtain Consent [GDPR Articles 7-9]

Consent is the new king in digital advertising, so review where and how you obtain it. Under the GDPR, consent must be given freely, specifically, and unambiguously, and it requires affirmative user action. Some pre-GDPR consent mechanisms (i.e. so-called ‘implied’ consent) may not be valid when the GDPR applies. And it remains to be seen if existing consent management platforms can properly handle authorized cookies delivered by third-party partners in addition to a publisher’s first-party cookies. It’s important that practical and user-friendly consent mechanisms are adopted. Where appropriate, review existing consent mechanisms and explore evolving market solutions to suit your business. EU regulators have provided some draft guidance on consent[ii].

7.  Be Transparent [GDPR Articles 12-14]

Revisit and restructure your Privacy Notice to ensure that it meets the requirements of GDPR. It is likely it will need to include more information than your existing one (such as all the technologies used to process data, including by third-party solution providers). Ad Ops teams will be directly responsible for any data collection activities. The UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) Code of Practice[iii] provides a good template to follow, including what information to include, how the Privacy Notice should be written, and how to test, review and roll it out. But don’t stop there. Consider enhancing transparency by deploying additional measures including ‘Just-in Time’ mechanisms, video messages or the EU AdChoices programme[iv].

8.  Give your Customers Greater Control over their Information [GDPR Articles 15-22]

The GDPR seeks to give people greater control over their data and therefore includes many rights for individuals, such as the Right to Erasure and the Right to Data Portability. Media publishers will need to put in place processes to achieve these for their customers. Beyond consent, publishers need to provide mechanisms for consumers to solicit information collected and used by the publisher and absolutely honour requests for data removal. The ability to offer this functionality and test its reliability are further proof points to demonstrate compliance. Where appropriate, point to existing controls such as unsubscribe mechanisms and opt-out points, and consider other innovative data control solutions.

9.  Designate a Lead Supervisory Authority [GDPR Article 56, 60-61]

Choose who your ‘Lead Supervisory Authority’ (i.e. regulator) will be when the GDPR becomes effective. This regulator will act as a single point of contact for the enterprise’s data activities throughout the EU. Documenting and opening up communication channels with the Lead Supervisory Authority now is critical to understanding how future enforcement will be carried out. Keep an eye on Brexit: if you are hoping to designate the UK ICO you may have to think again.

10.  Prepare for any Data Breaches [GDPR Articles 33-34]

Implement (and test) procedures to detect, report, investigate and resolve a personal data breach (e.g. data loss or hack). Keep in mind that the reporting of high-risk breaches to the relevant Supervisory Authority (regulator) needs to happen within 72 hours of discovery—a timeline publishers are not positioned to meet. As Data Controllers, Publishers are ultimately responsible for breach notifications and, therefore, they need to be aware of any breach that occurs throughout the digital supply chain including upstream partners.

Sailing Through the GDPR Storm

All experts agree: GDPR will be a watershed moment for digital publishers. The next several months (let alone years) will be tumultuous as stragglers try to catch up and the more-prepared publishers await the success of their compliance programmes.

On a positive note, the winds are favourable for digital publishers to take back control over their audience data. Direct access to the consumer relationship and the control of consumer consent puts publishers at the helm. However, it is up to the unlikely heroes—Ad Ops teams—to ensure smooth sailing when it comes to digital data compliance and risk management.

[i]  https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisations/documents/1595/pia-code-of-practice.pdf

[ii]  http://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/just/item-detail.cfm?item_id=50083

[iii]  https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-data-protection/privacy-notices-transparency-and-control/

[iv]  http://www.edaa.eu/

The Battle to Secure the Digital Environment

This article by Chris Olson, CEO at The Media Trust, was published in “CSO Online” on January 12, 2018.

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There’s no escaping it: costs to recover from a cyber incident continue to mount, projected to reach $8 Trillion by 2022 according to Juniper Research. Enterprises can’t keep pace with the increasing sophistication and cadence of internet-attacks, which are orchestrated by leveraging the components involved in everyday website functionality.

Information security is a growing, multibillion dollar business. Yet, the hits keep coming, with numerous high-profile breaches in 2017 generating unwanted front-page news for Equifax, Dun & Bradstreet, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Deloitte, Whole Foods Market, Hyatt Hotels, Uber, and Anthem, among others. While there are many facets to the security problem, the digital environment proves to be the most elusive. In fact, the past 12 months bore witness to countless man-in-the-middle attacks, vendor compromises and bots to harm to consumers and employees alike, grabbing credit card data, enslaving system resources, and so much more.

Something is wrong. Could it be that security providers don’t have solutions to address today’s malware problems?

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Websites: The Code for Cyberattacks

This article by Alex Calic, Chief Revenue Officer at The Media Trust, was first published in “Home Business Journal” on December 26, 2017.

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Hacktivists, cybercriminals, disgruntled employees and even students deface websites as a satisfying pastime. Much like spraying graffiti across a storefront or government building, cyber attackers deliver in-your-face messages to not only your market but also the internet at large. What’s worse is that you might not even know about it until customer complaints begin to roll in. Clearly, these are high stakes for a small or medium-sized business that relies on the internet as a revenue channel and brand ambassador.

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The State of GDPR: Publishers’ Questions Answered

This article originally appeared in AdMonsters on December 19, 2017.

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Data privacy and legal compliance experts agree: GDPR is too big to ignore. As an ad/revenue operations (ops), you should already know the E.U.’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect in May, 2018. What’s actually new in this story? Valid point. Despite months—possibly years—of preparation, publishers still have questions about GDPR’s implications, some of them pretty basic: Will this apply to our business? What do we need to do to become compliant? What kind of enforcement is expected? Can we just cross our fingers and ignore it?

The answers to these questions lie in every digital publisher’s ecosystem. GDPR affects any entity worldwide that digitally targets or monitors people in the E.U. This means knowing what’s happening in your digital environment, from vendors executing to data tracking. If knowing your digital partners doesn’t appeal as a basic business practice, then maybe the fines for violating GDPR will (maxing out at 20 million euro or 4% of the company’s global revenue, whichever is higher).

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10 Easy-to-Keep Resolutions for Safe Online Shopping

This article by Pat Ciavolella, Head of Malware Desk and Analytics at The Media Trust, was originally published in Fraud & Identity Today on December 18, 2017.

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Let’s admit it; online shopping can sometimes feel like junk food – it’s really good when you “virtual window-shop” but there is some element of guilt when you finally decide to splurge. Unfortunately, just like junk food binges can harm your health, online shopping can hurt you, too—malware and stolen card details are just the tip of the iceberg!

There is proof in the pudding: 2017 bore witness to several unsettling examples of ecommerce website attacks. In the Spring, at least 25 reputable, mid-tier ecommerce sites were compromised to steal customer payment card details. Then, six months later it was revealed that some of the world’s popular websites—a list that includes several brand-name retailers—were found recording your every keystroke.

Experiencing the effects of a digital compromise is a likely prospect for the average online shopper; it’s no longer something that only occurs during high-volume shopping periods or on dodgy websites. According to Adobe Analytics, online sales hit a record-breaking $6.59 billion on Cyber Monday, up 16.8 percent from 2016. How much of these record-breaking online sales were safe for you as a consumer? Good question. But, in preparation for 2018, everyone can resolve to be more vigilant.

A good first step is following these 10 easy-to-keep resolutions to protect your online shopping adventures:

 1. Judge loyalty programs: treat as guilty until proven innocent!

Read the fine print when signing up for loyalty programs that enable you to take advantage of additional discounts. Many retailers share your personal information with industry partners to promote seemingly complementary products, but the security of your personal data is not guaranteed.

2. Be a grammar guru: make sure URLs are spelled correctly

Domain spoofing is a widespread issue. It is easy to get enticed by a deal for a new gadget only to end up shopping on a completely fake website that has purposely been setup to entice and trick users, e.g., greatsales.com vs. gratesales.com. Also, pay close attention to grammar and spelling on various pages of the website, too. It’s easy to accidentally navigate off a legitimate site to a spoofed site.

3. Do a little detective work: check brand legitimacy

While shopping online, chances are, you are looking at multiple brands of goods. Before hitting the buy button, verify if the brand has a legitimate website, physical address and customer reviews before you splurge. Again, it doesn’t hurt to continuously keep an eye out for spelling errors on the url/domain and also general website text grammar. It’s unlikely a reputable brand would accidentally have these types of errors.

4. Build a routine: change passwords, often

This basic security practice is one that many consumers need to adopt. Changing passwords often, possibly a weekly or monthly basis, and creating strong passwords is important. And, no, your birthday isn’t a good password.

5. Seek trouble: with the payment page

Did you see an error message popup on the payment page? Or, did an error message flash just after you hit submit on your order? Chances are, there is something amiss and threat actors are trying to steal your payment card information. For the most part, the payment page should look “clean”, mimic other pages and contain minimal text – it shouldn’t have too many images, ads or other offers.

6. Confirm credibility: check for security certificates

Review the website’s security certificates, especially those on the payment page. While there is no guarantee that these certificates protect against a website attack, you at least want the ecommerce platform to meet industry security best practices around online payments, e.g., comply with PCI DSS standards.

7. Be perceptive: watch out for abnormal website behavior

Redirects, ad overload, ads that auto-refresh continuously, videos or images that take too long to load could signal some kind of trouble, possibly a compromise. Leave the site immediately by closing the tab and/or browser; you may even want to power off your device.

8. Work on reflexes: steer clear of fake updates and surveys

If the webpage displays a survey promising more discounts on completion or prompts you to update a plugin/ software, close the page down as quickly as possible. These are typical ploys to facilitate phishing or exploit kit drops. Don’t fall for it; some of these “you’ve won” scenarios ask an endless stream of user-identifying questions with a promise of a reward at the end. The reward never appears. Exit the browser right away!

9. Don’t walk and shop: mobile isn’t always safe

You might think you are better off shopping on your mobile phone, but carried-targeted malware is on the rise. This malware is only triggered if a person is visiting an infected website through a mobile device using data, i.e., the malware will not drop if you are on a secure Wi-Fi network.

10. Develop reading habits: start with privacy policies

Learn a little bit more about how cookies are used, how information about you is either shared or protected.

 

High Court Ruling That Could Reverberate Around the World

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This article first appeared in Corporate Compliance Insights on December 18, 2017

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In a precedent-setting move, the High Court in the United Kingdom (U.K.) ruled that a company is liable for data breaches caused by employees, shedding insight into the future of data privacy regulatory enforcement. The speed and flexibility of today’s digital world require the adoption of risk strategies that address not only employee behavior but also the vendors executing on enterprise websites and mobile apps. The changing regulatory environment mandates better control of these digital assets and the role they play in collecting, storing and sharing consumer data.

CPO: US Federal Websites in Urgent Need of Web Security Upgrade

Article originally published in CPO Magazine on December 8, 2017

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The U.S. Federal Government is a behemoth that touches every aspect of American life – and today the touchpoints for services and information that each U.S. citizen requires to comply with federal rules and regulations are increasingly found on the Internet. However, the latest report on the state of federal websites indicates that they fail on some key indicators regarding web security.

The problem with federal – and many enterprise – websites is that no one individual is in charge of the entire website operation.

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