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Privacy & Consent

IAB’s Project Rearc: A Possible Solution To Third-Party Cookie Apocalypse

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) launched Project Rearc at the 2020 IAB Annual Meeting held on 10th February, 2020. As they term it, the project aims at getting stakeholders in the digital advertising industry to make the internet a better place for consumers – marrying the value of privacy, personalization, and community. In other words, the project will focus on how the industry will operate without the presence of third-party cookies. 

Project Rearc’s launch conference dealt with some important questions being raised in the advertising industry. One of the most pertinent questions is how can industry experts provide personalization to users while protecting their identity at the same time? 

According to industry experts, consumers are facing a dilemma when on one hand, they want personalization from brands, while on the other, they wish brands respected their privacy. A solution like Project Rearc aims to answer that with the introduction of a framework for a universal login. It will provide power to consumers to control who their data is being shared to while allowing media experts to target them for ads. 

“What I feel is most important is coming together to engage the industry in an education campaign that helps real people understand the quid pro quo of advertising in a free content world – and a listening campaign that makes sure we solve for their fear and apprehensions when they surface.”

Steve Katelman of Omnicom
Salesforce data on digital marketing. What consumes want from brands after third-party cookies have targeted them for years
Source: Salesforce

Background On Why Project Rearc Has Come Into Force 

Following the same footsteps as Chrome’s counterparts (Firefox and Safari), Google is gradually making it a more privacy-compliant browser. Some of the recent updates in Chromium have revolved around blocking and gradual demise of third-party cookies. 

On January 14th, 2020, Google announced that within a span of two years, third-party cookies will be completely phased-out. This was followed by the SameSite cookie attribute which rolled out on 4th February, 2020 on Chrome 80. Google had already laid the foundation of these updates in August, 2019 when they launched their privacy sandbox

As a consequence, the ad tech and digital advertising industry is beginning to come up with possible solutions that can bridge the gap left behind by third-party cookie absence. Project Rearc is one out of the many initiatives to come that will build a better digital advertising ecosystem where user privacy is of prime importance.

What Has Been Proposed Under Project Rearc

The project will be directly handled by the IAB Tech Lab who as mentioned above, has proposed standards of a universal login or ID. According to the tech lab, absence of third-party cookies and mobile IDs will make the ‘default future state of digital media 100% anonymous and non-addressable to third-party vendors.’ 

Direct addressability for advertising will now be focused on only first-party data. One of the prime examples of this is an email address which a user provides of his/her own accord. 

IAB Tech Lab intends to develop stringent technical standards and guidelines that a universal identifier will comply with. Following conditions will be met with the universal identifier in place: 

  • Consumers will always be in full control of the data. The data will never be falsely taken from them.
  • The identifier will have sufficient encryption. This will prevent it from being reverse-engineered to identify the person. 
  • Brands and publishers will have regular auditing activities to ensure that third-party vendors are not tracking consumer details without consent.
  • Third-party vendors can also collect data on behalf of first-parties, provided the above conditions are met. 

“The cookie’s death can lead to a better future for digital media globally. It’s an opportunity to change the practices, controls, and value surrounding personal data to favor consumers. IAB and IAB Tech Lab have already been hard at work, engaging our members to define practical solutions. In the coming year, Tech Lab will undertake one of its most comprehensive initiatives to create technical standards, guidelines, and potentially a compliance program to support members – and consumers.”

– Dennis Buchheim, EVP and General Manager, IAB Tech Lab

How Did The Ad Tech Industry React To Project Rearc

According to sources and online responses, industry reactions have been rather mixed towards Project Rearc’s launch. Some of the negative reactions that we came across online are:

At the same time, some reactions were equally positive but mentioned some underlying concerns:

At the end, we’d like to say that while Project Rearc’s relevance is too early to be commented on, it is definitely a positive step towards building a third party cookie-free world. The digital advertising environment has long relied on cookies for consumer targeting but will now have to rethink the structure on similar lines as Project Rearc. 

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