“The data is yours,” Slender-White said. “It doesn’t belong to us at all. We are merely custodians of it for you and if there is anything we want to do with that data, we ask you first. That’s the reverse of the wider web and Internet of Things, where it’s more, ‘We’ll do everything with your data and maybe we’ll let you opt out of some of it.’”
Automatic Labs approaches the notice and choice issue by constantly explaining and reiterating exactly what it’s doing with its user data and why.
Users have to opt in and authorize the transaction each time they want to grant a third party or service – Nest, for example, or an insurance company – access to their data. Being required to make the decision afresh each time keeps consumers actively involved in what’s happening with their personal information.
“It becomes a repetitive process to instill our brand value in their mind,” Slender-White said. “[We see it as] an opportunity, not a burden.”
It’s better to ask than to run afoul, Khatibloo said.
“We tend to be worried as marketers about asking consumers to tick the box too many times,” she said. “But I like it as a way to reinforce brand values.”
It’s questionable, though, how realistic that would be if implemented at scale. If every brand asked for permission every time it wanted to do something – especially as the number of IoT devices continues to grow – consumers would be driven batty in short order.
Perhaps a cross-device opt-out, like the one called for by the Federal Trade Commission, is a way forward.
It’s also a little more complicated for companies that don’t have direct consumer relationships, which is usually the case in the ad tech space where consumers are generally opted in to be tracked by default.
And then there are the publishers often stuck in the middle.
Premium publishers “have a direct relationship with the consumer – they’re not advertising technology companies,” said Jason Kint, CEO of publisher trade org Digital Content Next. “They interface with the consumer every day, and whether or not they’re able to get attention or sell that attention to advertisers is based on trust.”