Own Your Own Identity: Why publishers should resist Assimilation

Own Your Own Identity: Why publishers should resist Assimilation
Stuart Colman
Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The forced evolution of the ID ecosystem, most recently as a result of Google announcing the phasing out of support for third-party cookies, has sharply focused attention on shaping the future.

Many in the industry have become blinkered, even obsessed, with the idea of creating a new or universal ID, so targeting can continue as usual – but this desire to simply replicate the status quo in a slightly different, marginally more compliant manner is in danger of missing the entire point.

Replicating the status quo in a different manner is in danger of missing the point

Data is the most valuable asset that a company holds, and being able to fully unlock customer insights without needing to cede control of the asset to another party such as an ID vendor should be front and centre of every company’s data strategy right now.

Who owns wins

Think of it like this. Data’s enormous value stems from the possibilities it represents for companies to make money and grow, either by using that data to build and sustain strong direct relationships with customers or through monetisation of that asset in indirect ways. Getting to that point, though, developing that data resource, is the result of an awful lot of hard work and investment – building trust to the stage where people are happy to hand over personal data, collecting that data and being responsible stewards of it. 

Handing over the keys of data ownership to a third party doesn’t make commercial sense… even if the promise is to enable you to achieve a greater understanding of your customer. This is the old school, first-generation way of thinking about identity.

Handing over control of data to a third-party doesn't make commercial sense

The creator and owner of the data asset should be the one who owns that identity, as well as the ability to control it, monetise it, and ensure its privacy. Otherwise, the business risks just becoming part of a ‘collective’, helping to build a central entity’s understanding of ID, giving the central entity enhanced leverage and monetisation opportunities, rather than this being in the control of the original data owner. The identity vendor is, in a sense, much like the Borg in Star Trek, which grows its hive mind through the assimilation of others.

Once identity data is handed over, it – and much of its value – has gone, indefinitely: the genie cannot be put back in the bottle.

Who benefits?

Hand-in-hand with this is the potential for reputational risk that comes with data centralisation – consumers by and large don’t understand that data onboarding to centralised third-party entities happens, or the daisy-chaining of consent that goes with it. 

In the UK, the Information Commissioner’s Office has started to call out the daisy-chaining of consent as not being in line with the GDPR, and with that, comes the potential for greater action in the coming months and years. 

Browsers, too, are likely to act on anything they see as fundamentally anti-consumer, as they have with third-party cookies. Capturing personal data in the first place requires trust, but giving away that same information risks destroying it.

Capturing personal data requires trust but giving it away risks destroying that trust

Another consideration is who gains from data being handed over to centralise IDs. Certainly, this is not necessarily the company which originally collected it. Yes, they will gain greater flexibility and addressability into their collective data, but the opportunity cost may be to enrich and enhance the central entity’s identity graph. The ID company is also able to empower your competitors by selling on this new information, which the original company has limited control over.

Plotting another course

A frequent criticism of the walled gardens operated by Facebook and Google is the disadvantage suffered by others who don’t – and can’t - have access to such extensive identity graphs. Turning to centralised ID vendors, though, to help make sense of data sets potentially just creates a new collective of identity data – in effect, another walled garden. 

Opening corporate eyes to alternatives put decentralised data onboarding services, that offer the same advantages with none of the downsides, centre stage.

InfoSum, for example, has a decentralised and federated architecture which allows datasets to remain isolated and controlled by their owners, but be connected and analysed as though combined to generate insight and activation opportunities. Data which remains in the owners’ possession, for them to continue to use to derive commercial value.

A new identity collective is not the answer - and, unlike the Borg, resistance is not futile. A better way exists – better for business, better for privacy and better for consumer confidence. Don’t be assimilated, identity federation is the future…..make it so.

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