Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Privacy in adtech: stop worrying and Learn to love the bomb

By Ben Phillips, CEO & Founder, blp101

Looking at all the privacy challenges that lie ahead, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Doomsday clock is reading five minutes to midnight.

The cookiepocalypse, Apple’s privacy crusade, CPRA, class-action lawsuits, and now the IAB Europe hinting that their Transparency & Control Framework (TCF) may be endangered by the Belgian regulator.

Technical change on one side, regulation on the other. Time to crawl into the bunker and wait for the fallout to blow over. 

But rather than resigning ourselves to Mutually Assured Destruction, why not consider an alternative narrative? There is a ‘privacy dividend’ for those bold enough to get out there and lead us into a more responsible and sustainable future… 

What’s brewing in Belgium?

If you’re part of IAB Europe’s Transparency Consent Framework (TCF), you’ll be tracking their recent notice ahead of an imminent ruling from the Belgian data protection regulator.

For digital advertising in Europe, the TCF has been an effective tool for connecting multiple parties to consumer data – powering valuable services around audience targeting, optimization, and many others.

Expected in the next few weeks, it looks like the Belgian regulator will declare that the  framework breaches the GDPR – opening data supply chains to further regulatory scrutiny.

It’s worth taking a moment to consider the impact of this decision. If the TCF Consent String is no longer available to stitch together data across the LUMAscape, what will the impact be on your products, services and critical vendors? 

A tonic for your privacy headache

Faced with this disruption, we suspect most businesses will consult their legal counsel, adopt a defensible position, and descend into the previously mentioned bunker.

But, for those heeding the winds of change, leaning into the regulator’s decision means thinking beyond the existing system of daisy-chaining consent. In practice, this means harnessing  consumer data in a first-party context, where consent and compliance can be clear.

And getting that close to the consumer data does more than just reduce compliance risk. It can tighten the supply chain and reset the relationship between publisher and advertiser. It can restore value. 

And, with the right technologies, it can bring new methods for reach, measurement and optimization that are more responsible, and that will survive Apple and Google’s technical browser changes.

Privacy and Performance 

We know that many worry that first-party data solutions sound like they risk a fragmentation of supply and the loss of data that drives performance. 

It doesn’t need to be that way. 

We have seen how federated technologies, or edge processing, and clean rooms have brought successful new products to adtech. 

It’s time for the next generation and the adoption of new techniques fully for effective, compliant measurement and optimisation – in fact, for all those important functions that currently rely on the TCF.


Moving to a model where less data is passed to fewer participants can reduce more than regulatory headaches. 

Each time we pass on a bid request in a programmatic buy the data is transmitted, stored and processed – all of which consumes energy. If a revamp of RTB consent leads to a tighter data supply chain, then we will absolutely see an environmental benefit. 

Academic studies assess that the programmatic supply chain is responsible for around 0.2% of all  global CO2 emissions. And our industry, like all others, is shifting from an approach based on easy offsetting to a more responsible one that demands reducing emissions and genuinely decarbonising. 

Adopting new first-party data technologies can reduce those programmatic emissions by more than 90%. That is an impact that none of us can ignore and which will become a standard hygiene factor in campaign design.

Cookie Banners and Consent

The Belgian ruling will stimulate an overhaul of consent frameworks in the next few months, so there’s never been a better time to think through how consent can work for consumers. 

Cookie pop-ups have been the often-irritating gateway for weaving consumer consent across the adtech LUMAscape. While we wait for repercussions from European data regulators  to become clear, it’s a great time to improve user experience by updating the way consent is communicated and captured from consumers. 

If we adopt those first-party data technologies, it becomes much simpler. We won’t be sharing data across the adtech cloud and so we won’t need to daisy-chain consent to third-parties. Consent will simply mean recording that the consumer has agreed to share data with the publisher. 

And that can herald a simpler approach to cookie pop-ups, only that can be trusted more easily by consumers.

Gradually, then Suddenly

Uncertainty over consent is the latest addition to a long list of reasons to rethink how consumer data is used in digital advertising. 

And it’s another opportunity to reimagine how digital advertising can work without passing consumer data between hundreds of actors. We all know this is coming to an end, so who will be the leaders in adopting a new technological approach?

The benefits are tantalising. Simple compliance. Respect for consumers. Measurement that works across all browsers. A clearer, tighter connection between brands and publishers. Future-proof solutions just at a time when the future is looking so uncertain.

The change is already happening if you know where to look. 2022 will be the year of gradually, then suddenly. 

Embrace the change, stop worrying, and learn to love the privacy bomb.