Internet Privacy, the Digital Ad Ecosystem, and Bob Dylan

Posted by Apomaya on Mar 29, 2019 5:57:45 PM

Singer-songwriter Bob Dylan once said, “After a while, you learn that privacy is something you can sell, but you can’t buy it back.” He may have been talking about the Internet.

Just consider the following:

  • More than 700 million email addresses and nearly 22 million passwords have been compromised in the global-wide “Collection #1” data breach. This historic-sized cyber theft is made up of many different individual data breaches from thousands of different sources.
  • The new DX.Exchange site, where people can trade currencies and digitized versions of stocks such as Apple and Tesla, has reportedly been leaking account login credentials and personal user information.
  • Home improvement platform Houzz revealed that information about its users, including names, city, state, country, profile description, and hashed passwords, was stolen by an unauthorized third party.
  • A third party’s misconfigured server exposed millions of bank loan and mortgage documents that belong to the financial data and analytics company Ascension. The third-party vendor provides services that convert paper documents and handwritten notes into computer-readable files.

These accounts are a mere handful of dozens and dozens of data leaks that occurred in January 2019 alone.

Data Laundering and Digital Ads

Privacy risks are escalating and are a tremendous concern in the digital ad ecosystem. Programmatic advertising thrives on user data being pilfered by third parties in the name of better ad targeting and retargeting. Meanwhile, data freely leaks from ads, trackers, and integrations.

Header bidding increases the privacy risk exponentially because each auction involves multiple exchanges, multiple DSPs, and also multiple data management platforms (DMPs). Sharing of personal viewer preference data happens with every user, thereby accessing every publisher’s content, every single time.

In the real-time bidding (RTB) system, highly detailed and personally invasive profiles are routinely built and traded. The advertisers who don't win their bid for the advertising space still have some degree of access to the data; therefore, the leaked data continues to cycle through the digital ad ecosystem, up for grabs by numerous third parties. In the end, the mash-up of players that gather the leaked information end up having more data than publishers do about their users.

Not surprisingly, ad-auction practices currently have Google and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) over the fire by privacy groups; this fire was ignited by a legal complaint in Europe filed under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The complaint alleges wide-scale, systemic data protection breaches.

Data breaches are costly, too. According to a study conducted by Kaspersky Lab, in 2018 the average cost of a data breach was $120,000 for small- and medium-size businesses — 36 percent higher than in 2017. For enterprises, the average impact of a breach reached $1.23 million — a 24 percent increase over 2017.

Reclaiming the Driver’s Seat

Apomaya has the tools publishers need to reclaim visibility and control in the digital ad ecosystem. For example, Apomaya Unity Hub makes it easy for publishers to:

  • Block any third party, or any transaction
  • Prevent malicious infestation, or hijacking
  • Change any content delivered to end users
  • Modify any information delivered to third parties

Publishers are armed with the knowledge of which third parties are accessing their user data, as well as what type of data they’re collecting. What’s more, Unity Hub enables publishers to block access to this valuable information.

While third parties bring flexibility and efficiency to a publisher’s business, they also create enormous privacy risks, and loss of control and visibility. Apomaya places publishers back in the driver’s seat by bringing much-needed transparency to the digital ad ecosystem and enabling publishers to provide their users with a safe, trustworthy interactive experience.


DarkReading, “Most Expensive Data Breaches Start with Third Parties”

NormShield, “Major Third-Party Breaches Revealed in January 2019”

MarTechAdvisor, “2019 Predictions: Malvertising, Data Leakage and GDPR”

Topics: +data privacy, +third-party control

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