Improving Transparency in the Online Advertising Ecosystem — ScienceDaily

The online advertising sector, led by companies like Google or Facebook, generated more than $200 billion in revenue in 2017, with annual growth of more than 15%. This explosion of online advertising raises serious data privacy concerns.

Advertisers track users when they are online by following them when they browse websites, search the web, or watch movies. Tracking companies build a profile of each user based on these activities.

Collecting and processing personal data and then offering it to interested parties often means maintaining a balance between maintaining the many gains made by industry and concerns about the privacy of Internet users. The TYPES project “protects the privacy of individuals while allowing them to control how their data is used by service providers for advertising purposes”, says Rosa Araujo, from Eurecat (Barcelona, ​​Spain), project coordinator for the EU-funded initiative. “By increasing end-user trust and advertiser transparency, all stakeholders in the advertising ecosystem will benefit.”

Arturo Azcorra, director of the IMDEA Networks Institute (Madrid, Spain), one of the ten consortium members who collaborated on the project, says about the results obtained: “TYPES has created solutions that protect the privacy of users while allowing them to control how their data is used by service providers for advertising purposes.At the same time, TYPES has raised awareness of the need to take decisive action to protect users’ online rights and to ensure that the use of personal data, if any, is transparent and results in reasonable added value for users.

Keep Internet advertisers under control

TYPES has created tools designed to support the idea of ​​a healthier, more transparent and more prosperous online advertising industry. This suite of tools allows users to “better understand how their personal data is used online, creating a solid foundation upon which they and the industry can thrive,” Araujo continues.

The web browser plug-in (available in enterprise and open source versions) and Network Proxy tools are all about detecting and protecting against privacy breaches. Araujo explains that they allow users to “know what information is collected and tracked by websites and advertisers, among others.”

Data valuation tools estimate the value that the online advertising market or users attach to different data that is mostly unknown and particularly difficult to assess. The software includes Web Survey Tool, Web Data Valuation Portal, YouTube Video Valuation Tool and Facebook Data Valuation Tool. “Disclosure of this information would benefit both end users and the online advertising industry,” Araujo notes.

TYPES has also developed Data Broker, a privacy-based advertising and marketing solution. Araujo emphasizes that it “helps end users share and benefit from their data in the digital advertising ecosystem.”

Products to boost business and protect privacy and personal data

Some solutions are ready to hit the market, while others are well on their way. The enterprise web browser plug-in is marketed for SMBs. One of the project partners, a digital agency, will offer the open-source version to its clients.

The subsidiary of a global security services company should introduce the Network Proxy tool to its customers. “It’s a huge success for the project and the potential it can offer, as the company has a portfolio of several dozen companies that buy solutions to improve the web experience of their users”, points out Araujo.

The Web Survey tool is available free of charge on the project website. Several partners intend to offer the web portal as a public service, aiming to maintain transparency and raise citizens’ awareness of the value of personal data.

There are plans to seek public research funds to maintain the Facebook Data Valuation tool, which informs Facebook users in real time about the money they generate for the social networking site. It is the only product of this type on the market. A patent has also been granted for the Data Broker algorithms.

“Major market players and national advertising industry organizations have expressed concern about the impact the project will have on established business models,” Araujo continues. “Despite this, there is an underlying awareness that something needs to be done on transparency, and that the new EU data privacy legislative framework which will come into force in 2018 will make the tools not only relevant, but necessary.”

“The rise of the digital economy should not necessarily be equated with an invasion of our privacy, especially since it is an unprecedented fact in history that minors have become heavy users of the services provided The existence of parental controls is not enough to protect them when it comes to, for example, sharing their real-time location,” concludes Azcorra. “IMDEA Networks will continue its work on the online advertising ecosystem as part of the “MyBubble” initiative recently launched in collaboration with the Carlos III University of Madrid and MIT. MyBubble focuses on the personalization filter, the so-called ‘filter bubble’ generated by online services based on our preferences and interests, and how it influences the information we access.’