Google Digital-Ad Probe; Twitter noodling ways to fight disinformation; and what does AdTech collaboration on a non-cookie world look like?
The lead attorney in a joint investigation of alleged anticompetitive behavior by Google claims the company is refusing to surrender emails, text messages, and other documents sought by state investigators. The joint investigation involves the attorney generals of 48 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Texas Attorney, General Ken Paxton, says the Google refusal suggests it is withholding information that can be damaging. For its part, Google says it is cooperating with the probe and says access to information is always a discussion issue in investigations like this one. Google claims it has released 100,000 pages of information. But it is wary of some of the requests by the investigative group because the group contains advisors who work with Google’s competitors and could share confidential information. Google has expressed its concerns regarding the scope of the investigation to Texas investigators.
Twitter believes misinformation is a serious issue and has confirmed it is testing several different ways to address it. One such experiment involves adding brightly colored labels directly beneath tweets it feels contains lies or misinformation. This is just one of several possible methods and Twitter said it does not have a “roll out” date for any new misinformation counters at this time.
In the version revealed by a leaked demo, bad information posted by public figures would be corrected “Wikipedia-like” by fact-checkers and verified journalists on the platform. It would all be part of a new “community reports” feature. You would see bright red and orange badges for tweets deemed “harmfully misleading.” They would be nearly the same size as the original tweet and displayed directly underneath. Folks who participate in the “fact-checking” could earn points and a community badge if they contribute in good faith to helping people understand information found on the platform. Twitter last month announced a ban of tweets that share synthetic or manipulated media “likely to do harm.”
Thanks to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), the AdTech ecosystem is already rethinking its targeting practices and redesigning their bidding processes. They are also trying to determine what actually constitutes a “sale” of personal data under the new law, which leads to another quandary based on the definition of a sale under CCPA—is an AdTech vendor a service provider or a third party? Service providers can get personal information from a CCPA-covered business without identifying the exchange as a sale and would not have to offer an opt-out. This would require the vendor to be contractually restricted in an agreement with the covered business. But the contract by itself may not be enough, depending on whether a covered business suspects the “service provider” of using personal information outside of the contract, then this company is no longer deemed a service provider. The intrinsic nature of using personal information more broadly puts it on advertisers and publishers to figure out if they are comfortable taking a risk working with service providers under such a contract.
Project Rearc has been put forward by the IAB and the IAB Tech Lab as a means of collaboration to figure out a post-cookie world for AdTech. Everybody agrees there should be collaboration. But there are still a lot of questions to figure out—such as the scale of such collaboration. But history and misaligned motives, along with confusion, debate, and dissent means there is still a lot of work to be done and agreed to.
At a huge confab last week, IAB hosted the largest digital gathering since Google announced it is dropping third-party cookies on its Chrome web browser. This was an attempt at industry collaboration to offer media buyers a first party-based alternative to walled gardens. However, the fate of proposals under this umbrella of collaboration remains unclear and perhaps bogged down due to interests and philosophies of various players that may not necessarily be aligned. There are concerns proposed that these new industry standards may favor AdTech vendors much more than publishers.
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