A privacy-preserving ad infrastructure

A privacy-preserving ad infrastructure

Internet at large, Privacy, Matthew Garcia, 21. July 2021

Privacy should be seen as a basic right, and one that benefits all stakeholders online

The information revolution has done wonders for human kind: it has facilitated an endless amount of information to communities that could only dream of that in the past. Services, education, entertainment and many other resources have become available for all, almost irregardless of where one lives. Yet, in the current state of things, where free and reliable content should remain widely accessible to as many people around the globe as possible, advertising practices can severely limit that accessibility. Advertising is essential and funds content creators, and yet as the main element of an online value exchange, when it gets out of balance it can be detrimental to the entire system.

It’s crucial that advertising does not exploit users’ rights. That it should not create hindrances to user access, nor unduly profit from or be geared towards individual surveillance. And as we’ve seen with events at the US capitol in January and elsewhere in the world, spreading false, ad-funded misinformation can have a monumental effect on democracy itself. Responsible advertising should be the norm. And there should be a transparent, user-friendly agreement about how advertisers, publishers and users can fruitfully coexist.


The Crumbs solution

Crumbs is eyeo’s new privacy tool that establishes a holistic privacy-preserving ad infrastructure. For us, privacy is a basic right. And any discussions of our communal online future need to prioritize privacy and its role in providing not only user safety and empowerment, but also balance online.

Crumbs enables that by offering users the privacy and personal-data control they crave, while presenting a novel solution for mitigating the value exchange with advertisers and publishers by generating meaningful, user-consented data, giving browsers a central role in the exchange.

While the discourse of privacy gained more attention over the last few years, surprisingly (and some may even say suspiciously) , there is still a vacuum when it comes to user-friendly ways of managing your online data. Behind walls of legal information, hidden buttons and technical terms, the final destination of users’ personal information remains murky. A trustworthy ad ecosystem should provide the user with straight-forward means to take aware decisions.

For the internet to remain fair, open and widely-accessible, it’s critical to have a privacy-minded and sustainable value exchange in place. Thus, Crumbs facilitates the connection between the advertising industry and user expectations.


How does that work?

Empowerment through privacy – in principle, users deserve to be respected. Sufficient privacy should be seen as a basic tool, not as a luxury. Crumbs aims to make privacy protection widely adopted, raising the bar for how the common user experience should be. And with that said, with Crumbs, privacy can be adopted at scale, all while acknowledging the important role ads play in the internet economy. Privacy at scale can exist only as long as it’s paired with suitable ways to fund content. Otherwise, the alternative is that content itself could become a luxury hid behind paywalls and adblock walls, where only those who can afford access, or have the technical knowledge to keep up to speed with such changes (imagine people of an older generational trying to come to terms with pay- and adblock walls) are given the chance to have access to quality journalism and unbiased information.

Crumbs enables browsers to benefit from this online exchange by allowing them to provide their user bases with all the privacy tools that they expect; fulfilling expectations of having the safest and most user-centric browsing experience. Crumbs also cultivates a sustainable ecosystem that still encourages and cherishes content creation by providing a privacy-preserving ad infrastructure. This infrastructure is possible with the combination of Crumbs with eyeo’s widely-successful ad standard Acceptable Ads (with over 225 million users).

By making user data safe, visual, and transparently manageable and allowing users to share some anonymized data with advertisers (that can never be traced back to an individual user), Crumbs creates a win-win-win. Advertisers win because they don’t dilute their message with intrusive and unconsented ads, and they can benefit from meaningful data; platforms win because it is compliant (ie. fosters a good user experience because it provides the mechanics to make everything function in a compliant way); and users win because they get to continue to see free content, in a completely private and self-managed way.


Moving Forward

The modern internet is funded by advertising, but the value exchange needs to improve. We believe that balance is key and that there really is room for a three-way victory for all stakeholders. Allowing content to remain openly accessible is an act of democracy and global equality. We don’t have all the answers yet, but we are continuously working and we welcome ideas and partnerships as we aim to enable the online ecosystem for a sustainable, privacy-first future.

As we unroll different stages of Crumbs and our privacy-preserving ad infrastructure, we hope to move forward with our vision.