Apple and privacy advocates are “extreme”, the head of the IAB

In an unusual keynote at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s annual leadership meeting in Florida last week, CEO David Cohen called privacy activists, academics, politicians left and right and even Apple “extremists” for criticizing the ad industry and its support for toughening privacy. legislation.

“Extremists are winning the battle for hearts and minds in Washington, D.C., and beyond,” Cohen said. “We cannot let that happen. These extremists are political opportunists who have made it their mission to cripple the advertising industry and eliminate it from the American economy and culture.”

The online advertising industry is deeply concerned about the momentum of privacy legislation in the US, as five states introduce GDPR-style rules requiring consumers to opt-in, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has vowed to crack down on tracking.

Cohen used the word “extremist” ten times in his speech Online. He also described the argument that online tracking is used to shape behavior and society made by Shoshana Zuboff, author of the influential book the age of surveillance capitalism, as “miserable nonsense” and “crazy”.

He took aim at the anti-surveillance remarks he made FTC Chair Lena Khan, who is apparently trying to separate advertising from “big tech” (although Google, Meta and Amazon are IAB members), accused the regulator of endangering the “free and open internet” in its zeal to “punish the big players”. Last summer, the FTC promised to crack down on “commercial surveillance and lax data security practices.” One advertising company said drum The year 2023 is an “inflection point”.

Turning to American politicians, Cohen said the likes of Amy Klobuchar (D-) and Ted Cruz (R-) would “put our industry under their campaign buses.” Both have called for more regulation of social media, albeit for different reasons.

He also put in Assad Ramzanali, head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Democratic Congresswoman Anna Esho for describing online advertising as “a vehicle for disinformation and inflammatory rhetoric to breed and harm people.” Republican Cathy McMorris criticized Rodgers for claiming that the industry is “part of big tech’s control of speech that limits consumer choice and leads to addiction.”

He attacked lobby group Accountable Tech, as “one of the most virulent anti-ad groups trying to shut down the ad-supported internet,” accusing it of funding “progressive dark money,” and said IAB lobbyists have been hard-pressed in Washington to push for “serious legislation.” and logical.”

Fear of the US General Data Protection Regulation

The US has been far more lenient than Europe on data protection, but Colorado, Connecticut, Utah and Virginia are following California’s lead and introducing their own GDPR-style privacy laws this year, and the ad industry doesn’t like it one bit. And as a worst case, it fears a federal privacy ruling similar to the US-wide General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which has been discussed.

Last year, IAB Europe was fined €250,000 by the Belgian data protection agency, which told the trade body that a “legitimate interest” was not a legal basis for placing cookies on a device within the Transparency and Consent Framework (TCF). Its provisional replacement was approved earlier this month, but IAB Europe faces further rulings from the European Court of Justice over whether it is a data controller and whether its preferred consent mechanism is personal information under GDPR.

Not surprisingly, Cohen isn’t a fan of the GDPR, saying it punishes small and medium players.

In his speech, he positioned the advertising industry as a noble and liberating force that “enables the World Wildlife Fund to sell environmental protection and enables the United Negro College Fund to attract contributions that support HBCUs.” He claimed that publishers, platforms, brands, advertising agencies, private equity and venture capital, military technology and advertising technology were innocent parties caught in the crossfire between regulators and big technology, and “extremists” attacked them from all sides.

However, Cohen has reserved his biggest weapon for Apple, which he views as a kind of fifth column, accusing the company of setting an example of “the cynicism and hypocrisy that underpins the prevailing extremist view”.

Apple, which is not a member of the IAB, has long sought to differentiate itself from other tech giants as uniquely respectful of privacy. The exact amount of this marketing message is questionable: Apple faces a number of lawsuits for failing to live up to its privacy demands, and researchers have found that Apple collects analytics data even when privacy controls are set to prevent it.

Exaggeration aside, Cohen is probably on solid ground here. Many industry observers saw the move as less of a moral statement and more of a way to alienate its competitors. He accused the Cupertino company of trying to “strangle the advertising industry, just as they did the recorded music industry”.

“Apple aims to allow them to expand their ad business while rewriting the rule book so the rest of the industry can’t compete,” he continued.

With “extremists on the left and the right, supported by giants like Apple and others with a vested interest in dominating the market,” Cohen said, the industry faces severe challenges.

“We have to confront the extremists if we want to survive.”

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