Once the midterm cycle wraps, political digital marketers will have to start preparing for a “sea change” that will hit their sector of the campaign industry.
Five states have new digital privacy laws coming online in 2023, and 12 months later, digital practitioners will have to prepare for Alphabet’s phase out of cookies. This shift toward greater personal privacy protections online may not stop there. In fact, some data vendors in the political industry are bracing for even more changes.
“We think that there’s going to be a bigger push on the privacy side,” Bryan Gernert, CEO of Resonate, a non-partisan data vendor, told C&E. “We really hope for a national privacy law because, for an industry, you want a standardized set of regulations that you’re working against.”
Gernert said his company has moved beyond just having conversations about what the new privacy landscape will look like after 2022 and has been actively preparing for it for the last 18 months. He describes Resonate’s positioning as “doing the same things we do, but not leveraging things like cookies and others.”
He continued: “Our entire infrastructure now has been built in a way that we don’t have to rely on those types of identifiers to deliver the online advertising that we do today.
“For the majority of companies out there, [the sunset of cookies] will significantly change their ability to target from a data perspective. I see a major impact.”
A more immediate impact could come from the implementation of the California Privacy Rights Act, which expands the existing California Consumer Privacy Act, the Colorado Privacy Act, Connecticut Data Privacy Act, Utah Consumer Privacy Act and Virginia’s Consumer Data Protection Act, which all come into force in 2023. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), an industry trade group, last month released a document meant as a guidebook to help the advertising industry navigate these new laws, which cover nearly one in five Americans.
Michael Hahn, a top lawyer for the IAB and IAB Tech Lab, told C&E that the document is meant for help “make sure everyone understands what the law says [and] how it applies in the digital advertising context.”
“There’s a lot of inter-connectivity with what happens in the distribution of a digital ad,” he said. “We do need to have a certain level of cooperation to make sure that the consumer’s rights are complied with. That is going to be a significant change.”
The different state laws overlap, but also have unique features that digital marketers will have to navigate. Hahn offered this broad overview: “When you look at the definition of cross-context behavioral advertising, that’s very much a disclosure-based approach in the law. If you look at the definition of targeted advertising, that’s process based.
“You look at the restrictions on service providers being able to combine personal information between either different service provider engagements or with their own interaction with the consumer, that’s a requirement that exists in California, but not in other places.
“California also requires that you have contracts for third-party sales. It also prohibits service providers from engaging in cross-context behavioral advertising.”
The list goes on.
For instance, “each of the states also has some pretty nuanced differences between what constitutes sensitive personal information [SPI] and the conditions that need to be meant to process it,” Hahn added. “Geolocation, for example, appears in some of the laws as sensitive personal information, but not all of the laws. Some states have opt-in for SPI, some states have opt out.”
All told, he said, these laws represent “something of a sea change in what is expected of the digital ad industry.”
Still, even Hahn isn’t sure exactly how compliance with the laws will work in practice — particularly when it comes to political advertising. He compared the legal situation to the environment that following Congress’ passage of anti-trust laws more than a century ago. “There was an evolution over time, and that was the result of many, many lawsuits until you came to a settled perspective.”