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The Chaos at Twitter Should Scare Advertisers More Than Anything.

The opacity of the ad tech industry can be costly for brands. It’s time to embrace surveillance-free advertising.

 

Right after Elon Musk’s turbulent takeover of Twitter, a few of the world’s biggest promotional firms have encouraged clients to stop publicizing their brands on the virtual entertainment network because of worries over “brand security”. The moderation capabilities of Twitter, including those devoted to ensuring that advertisements do not appear next to online content that could harm a brand’s image or reputation, were reportedly impacted when thousands of employees quit or were let go.

However, advertising on Twitter was risky prior to Musk’s arrival. Advertising on social media is generally fraught with serious pitfalls for businesses. Moving news sources in addition to potential broad disdain discourse and disinformation could result in reputational harm with each parchment on the off chance that there is a stumble.

Advertisements for an airline should not be placed next to breaking news about a plane crash. No brand would allow their product to appear alongside posts praising terrorist acts, encouraging child abuse, or praising a well-known football player for dropping his cat.

According to reports, Musk has attempted to entice some advertisers back with generous incentives like matching their advertising expenditures, but it is unclear whether this strategy has been successful.

Advertisers will likely return only if the new leadership of the company makes clear their plans for brand trust and safety, which is right. There is no solid guarantee that brand-damaging incidents would be prevented.

However, a whole ecosystem of the online advertising industry exists outside of the walled garden of social media platform advertising, and it is increasingly posing a new threat to brand safety. We have been shocked by how intrusive and harmful the ad tech and data broker industry has become during our investigations.

These are unknown businesses, also known as “business partners” or “third parties,” which are frequently mentioned in numerous privacy policies that you clicked to accept but didn’t read. Their business involves selling a lot of personal information that they collect from all over the internet for marketing purposes.

We have evidence that marketing companies allowed in hospitals in the United Kingdom and people who have visited mental health websites in Europe collected personal information from pregnant women through online parenting clubs, mothers who had just given birth. This information is then imparted to outsider advertisers without these individuals’ information.

This sensitive data is likely being sold and resold in the data broker industry, so it could end up in an advertiser’s data supply chain without their knowledge.

Imagine the harm that would be done to a brand’s reputation if it turned out that a business selling baby products was using data illegally collected from women who had miscarriages. This could lead, for example, to women who are already going through the traumatic experience of losing a pregnancy seeing online ads for diapers and formula on a regular basis.

A brand does not want to be in this horrible situation, but our question to advertisers is this: can you be sure that no data in your supply chain has been collected in this way?

We recognize that brands may not have full visibility into the data supply chain’s lower levels, but we also believe that brands would want to change if they did. As privacy-focused NGOs raise their standards and regulators begin to pay attention, this is a growing concern. It is only a matter of time before the role that advertisers play in financing this industry receives more attention.

At Privacy International, we spent many months contacting advertisers to present our evidence, express our concerns, and offer practical suggestions for how they can improve the landscape of online advertising and reduce harm.

The first step for advertisers is to discuss these issues with their advertising agencies and look into alternatives to the current advertising model. The current ecosystem encourages an intrusive all-or-nothing strategy, despite the fact that there is room for a privacy-preserving system that only requires minimal data from customers.

The truth is that surveillance-based advertising isn’t very effective, and it probably doesn’t make sense to put customers’ privacy at risk. Because of the industry’s lack of transparency, advertisers are unable to determine precisely how many customers are actually exposed to their advertisements. Additionally, there is the problem of fraud, in which views and clicks are inflated; Advertisers stand to lose $23 billion as a result of such practices, according to one estimate.

Companies could conduct a data supply chain audit, specifically looking at auction systems and third-party databases utilized by ad tech companies and data brokers, in order to minimize their risks and safeguard their customers.

By controlling and verifying where ads are served, businesses already audit and monitor internal data practices, return on ad spend, and brand image protection; Additionally, they conduct human rights due diligence throughout the supply chain. Using the audits that are already in place to demand accountability and transparency regarding the use of personal data can be a way to stop harmful practices and safeguard customers.

When it comes to safeguarding their brand, advertisers are already demonstrating their ability to act decisively in public. They can also do this to safeguard their clients and demonstrate respect for their privacy.

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