July 18, 2018 | by Alexian Chiavegato

Marfeelcon Panel Discussion: Balancing Data Privacy and Monetization

At its headquarters in Barcelona, Marfeel recently hosted another high-level panel discussion featuring some of its client mobile publishers. The topic for the most recent event was “The Balance of Data Privacy & Monetization.” Included in the discussion were Marfeel co-founder and CEO Xavi Beumala along with web publishers Rithesh Menon, Vice President, Monetization & Account Management, GOOD Media Group, Tony Farrelly, Owner, Farrelly Atkinson Limited, and David Webb, CEO of Timera Media. The panel was moderated by VentureBeat tech writer Dean Takahashi.

The first subject tackled, of course, was GDPR (the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation) and early thoughts regarding its implementation and results. The general consensus among the group was that the way GDPR was built is preventing it from achieving its laudable goals. Tony Farrelly indicated the problem is the quickly changing digital landscape coupled with the length of time it took to create the law. He said it has resulted in a major disconnect. Xavi Beumala added that GDPR was built to protect people from Amazon, Google or Facebook but, in reality, those companies have become more empowered.

“They are actually the only ones that will be able to get more data, and be allowed to use it and use the network potential that they have, that the rest of the world cannot have,” said Beumala. “Even in the execution, why didn’t they enforce browser levels to do that? Why didn’t they just put it on the browser level or even at the operating system level? If you do it with the two big ones, Android and iOS, and you’ve finished them all. They promised that, and it didn’t happen like that. Instead we are getting the GDPR cookie policy pop-up war.”

The conversation then moved to the eventual adoption of a United States’ version of GDPR and the attention the Facebook Cambridge Analytical scandal forced on the issue. Rithesh Menon feels publishers in the U.S. are taking more responsibility in collecting and protecting first-party data instead of that the major players share it with them. David Webb added that U.S. consumers indeed care about publishers protecting sensitive data and it’s up to the publishers to assure its users that the data won’t be forwarded or hacked.

As to what publishers can and should do to work within the new realities and still remain a viable business, Tony Farrelly felt the best policy is to build relationships with your site’s core users and, hopefully, grow and deepen that core. He said it should follow equally that the profile of a site’s users would be of interest to other advertisers and to programmatic applicants of the net. Then Xavi Beumala introduced the possibility that telecom carriers would become a noticeable threat and said that the problem is that right now GDPR affects publishers on one side and advertisers on the other side but right in the center is a third party [telecoms] that can do whatever they want without telling anyone, including forming relationships with first-party individuals that ad tech can never have.

The panel ended with a lengthy discussion of “Fake News” and what can be done about it. Technology and source certification were the two main suggestions. “I think we like to think that the big guys should really come up with a technological solution,” said David Webb. “The problem with that is that it abdicates responsibility. We’ve always lived in a world where we are given lots of sources of information and we have been raised to query that information in many cases. I think society is coming through with an odd conclusion that it’s not our problem, it’s [Facebook and Google’s] problem. I don’t think that’s a healthy situation, I think everybody should have a healthy dose of skepticism of all sources. That’s something which I think we need to encourage.”

Xavi Beumala raised the issue of yearly news source “certification” but admitted that refusing to certify publishers, news producers and information producers that aren’t actual companies would be like banning them.

Marfeelcon is a quarterly event hosted in Barcelona by Marfeel and brings together leaders from the ad tech industry and mobile publishers.