The new “OpenRTB” online ad exchange platform–consumer protection and privacy concerns

Both Advertising Age and report on the new “real-time bidding” consortium.  Real-time bidding stands for a process where each of us are tracked and sold to the highest bidder, in real-time, so we can be targeted with ads (from financial products to pharmaceuticals to travel and more).  The OpenRTB effort provides “industry standards for communication between buyers of advertising and sellers of publisher inventory.”  Initial members include leading data targeting companies Data Xu, MediaMath, Turn, Ad Meld, Pubmatic and the Rubicon Project.

The further integration of data tracking and selling platforms raises consumer protection, privacy and competition issues.  Consumers need to be able to decide for themselves about whether they wish to be targeted through such exchanges.  The consortium offers its online ad partners tools to streamline the digital marketing process.  Where are the tools for a consumer–so they can determine how they are treated online through these anonymous and impersonal systems?  In its haste to advance online behavioral targeting, the new OpenRTB consortium appears to have left privacy and consumer choice and control aside. Regulators, privacy and consumer advocates and others will need to maintain a close watch on the new online targeting alliance.  Meanwhile, we hope that this new group will adopt new consumer protection safeguards–and not rely on the flimsy argument that groups such as the NAI and triangled icons somehow protect the public.

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.