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IAB Tech Lab releases ‘nutrition label’ for digital ad transparency

The Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Technology Lab is out with version 1.0 of its Data Transparency Standard for the digital ad industry, and is launching a related Data Transparency Standard Compliance Program and seal.

Nine companies were “architects” of the transparency standard and compliance program: 3W.relevanC, Dstillery, Epsilon, Hearst Magazines, LiveRamp, Meredith, Neustar, Oracle Data Cloud and Pandora. They have also committed to a pilot period for the compliance program.

The initiative includes a web site for transparency in the data marketplace, and a site about the data compliance program.

The Framework and ‘Ingredients Label’

In May of last year, the Tech Lab made available for comments the first draft of this standard – a new framework for minimum disclosure requirements by data sellers and for a compliance program. At the time, the Lab’s Transparency Standards Working Group described the proposed label as a kind of “ingredients label” for the origin, freshness and kind of data offered by sellers.

In particular, the Tech Lab wanted to let buyers know exactly a variety of data attributes which have previously been hidden, contributing to suspicions about the digital ad industry’s ecosystem. Those attributes include knowing exactly where specific data came from, how it was collected and organized, if it was manipulated or modeled, and what rules established the data within an audience segment.

In addition to increasing data transparency in general, this initiative for transparency in the selling of data segments could make it easier for marketers to compare data segments solely on the basis of price and quality, such as one provider’s audience segment of mothers of teenage children versus another’s.

In October of last year, the Tech Lab released a beta version of its “ingredients label” for comments, along with a tool at the Data Label site that allows viewers to search, inspect and compare sample labels.

Transparency compliance audit

With the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California’s new privacy law breathing down the neck of every company collecting or using consumer data, the new standards are intended to lay down “minimum disclosure and transparency standards for any company that collects audience data for targeting, personalization or measurement of digital advertising.”

The Tech Lab compares the new standard to “a nutrition label on packaged foods,” requiring data providers to provide details to others about audience segment quality, how recent the segment data was collected, the provenance of where the data originated and other segmentation criteria.

To achieve compliance with the standard and accompanying seal – which is available to any data-offering organization and to data marketplaces – companies will participate in an annual business audit.

The audit will confirm that the data on the transparency label is reliable, that that organization has enough resources to maintain compliance at scale, and that all segments offered by the organization are included.

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