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NAI Summit 2024 – Moving Privacy Forward

Change is Essential – and Good for the Industry

Leading digital advertising companies joined the NAI in New York in May for its annual Summit to hear from state and federal regulatory and enforcement officials, privacy leaders, and other key stakeholders about the key privacy and data protection challenges and opportunities facing the industry.

This year’s NAI Summit sessions focused primarily on how the digital advertising industry should be thinking about its privacy and data collection practices amid a changing regulatory environment, focusing on protections for sensitive data and analyzing risk and compliance challenges in light of evolving expectations from regulators and changing public perceptions of data collection and use. Here are five key trends that the Summit sessions identified for companies working to comply with privacy laws and adapt their business practices to move privacy forward.

1. Change is coming to the ad-tech industry, and this is a good thing! Several speakers, including NAI Board Chair Alan Chapell and NAI President & CEO Leigh Freund, outlined the need for ad-tech companies to chart a new course to continue providing valuable services while also providing stronger privacy protections, and they challenged industry leaders to have the courage to chart a path to a sustainable future for digital advertising. The Summit’s keynote speakers, award-winning journalist and author Byron Tau and California Privacy Protection Agency Executive Director Ashkan Soltani, referenced the societal and political pressures on the industry, and both noted that there are opportunities for ad-tech going forward, if the industry embraces change. Each of the panels discussed the strongest drivers of change across the ecosystem, ranging from the evolving U.S. legal landscape and the need to prevent a diverse range of consumer harms, to essential technological changes to enhance consumer privacy, control, and data security. 

2. New, easy to use privacy controls are essential to improving consumer choice. Several Summit speakers discussed tools and strategies to enable meaningful consumer choice and consumer participation in the data ecosystem. The discussions ranged from industry participants working through the nuts and bolts of implementing different privacy signaling specifications like Global Privacy Control and Global Privacy Platform together; to discussions with regulators about their expectations for those implementations from both consumer ease-of-use and privacy compliance perspectives. This will be a critical area of focus for the NAI moving forward.

3. AI and privacy tech are new realities that will transform the industry and legal environment in the near term. In addition to new consumer choice tools, Summit speakers focused heavily on the transformative role of new technologies more broadly. The age of AI and privacy-enhancing technologies has arrived, and digital advertising companies need to embrace these to the advantage of both advertising objectives and consumers, while being mindful of increased privacy demands and new risks such technologies may pose to consumers. Companies need to think about risk differently, carefully consider the ways AI and automated decision-making impact privacy, and explore how PETs can be utilized in place of old practices. Privacy tech is quickly evolving, is adapting to the increased role of AI and automated decision-making, and can be a helpful tool to address many of the compliance challenges raised by the evolving legal landscape, but companies need to carefully consider the intersection of these tools and their compliance obligations to ensure a holistic approach to privacy. The industry will likely see continued fluidity and evolution in legal compliance approaches, likely with an enhanced focus on outcomes and particularly “consequential decisions.”

4. There are clear strategies to improve compliance to meet expanded, evolving legal requirements. Several panels explored ways to meet new legal compliance requirements and minimize risk, and the message from five leading U.S. enforcement officials was consistent: (1) companies need to make strong efforts to comply; (2) companies need to be able to demonstrate these efforts and continue on a path to compliance; and (3) direct engagement is more valuable than harmful, so companies should embrace inquiries as an opportunity to review your practices and compliance strategy, rather than shying away and being coy. The state regulatory panel also provided tactical advice to companies: be proactive in reaching out to development teams working on new products to really understand what they do, how data is being used, and how that aligns with new legal requirements. It was clear from the Summit panels that times are changing and the legal landscape is becoming more demanding. 

5. The NAI is leading the way at this critical time. Many speakers said that one of the best ways to improve compliance and reduce risk is to be an active member of the NAI. Each of the regulatory and enforcement officials also recognized the value of industry groups, and specifically the NAI, to actively develop and promote compliance strategies. Through its working groups, events, and processes like its annual accountability assessments, including a review of companies’ compliance with the NAI voluntary standards for precise location data providers, the NAI helps members stay on top of the latest compliance, technical, and business process trends. We’re helping bring about positive change for ad-tech companies, the advertising industry, and consumers who benefit from the information they provide, and we’re moving privacy forward.

Thank you to each of our keynote panelists, Byron Tau and CPPA Executive Director Ashkan Soltani, and all of our amazing speakers: Joshua Koran, Rowena Lam, Don Marti, Tony Ficarrotta, Ben Pearse, Susan Rohol, Denise Tayloe, Ryan Smith, Ken Dreifach, Danielle Jeatran, Gerald Smith, Meaghan Donahue, Yashina Burns, Aaron Burstein, Richy Glassberg, Leigh Freund, Alan Chapell, Duncan McCall, Mark Jablonowski, Lauren McDermott, Noga Rosenthal, Anthony Matyjaszewski, Ghita Harris-Newton, Gary Kibel, Aaron Massey, David LeDuc, Nathalie Maréchal, Maneesha Mithal, Jules Polonetsky, Alex Cone, Tony Katsur, Ashwin Machanavajjhala, Lauren Wetzel, Julie Karasik, Ronnie Solomon, Kashif Chand, Gena Feist, and Michele Lucan.

A big thank you goes out to all of our sponsors for your support of the 2024 NAI Summit and helping bring leaders in the ad-tech industry together: Yahoo!, Google, Amazon Ads, Davis+Gilbert, Kelley Drye, Perkins Coie, SafeGuard Privacy, and ZwillGen!

We hope to see you next year in San Francisco for our 2025 NAI Summit!

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