Adtech industry reacts to latest universal ID updates

As the adtech industry continues to brace for the death of the cookie, alternative tech solutions are on the rise but security concerns remain


The adtech industry is responding favourably to efforts to provide alternative user identification data mechanisms to replace traditional cookie tracking. But several have warned privacy and security concerns remain a significant hurdle to adoption.

One of the latest solutions on offer is The Trade Desk's Unified ID, a standardised identifier for locating someone visiting a webpage that links to an encrypted email address collected by publishers. The open source technology is designed to enable publishers to correlate user data with Web pages and other content while retaining user privacy, and is the second iteration of Trade Desk’s Unified ID.

Broadly, the solution has been well received by the larger industry, with Lotame COO, Mike Woosley, for one, welcoming the technical innovation. However, he cautioned the biggest challenge will be persuading publishers to contribute IDs based on hashed emails because it is giving away something they could hold private to their own benefit.

“If this type of approach is successful, those 'assets' will be available to all participants on a level playing field,“ Woosley said. “Industry participants will have to win via innovation, compelling media and content, and delivery of impact and results - not by hoarding. The hoarder will ultimately lose."

The Trade Desk's move to open up its identification platform has also been welcomed by ID5. Its CEO and co-founder, Mathieu Roche, noted that at a time when browsers and operating system developers want to push the industry into a “cohorts logic, the broader adtech industry has united against this approach, which doesn’t work for publishers and brands”.

However, Roche also saw an email or login-based identity solution for digital advertising presenting two significant challenges: Security and scale.

“An email address is a very sensitive, very personal piece of information. Given the open source nature of the initiative, the risks of abuse of the information shouldn’t be underestimated,” he said. The CEO also claimed bot traffic and fraud could skyrocket if the lack of centralised control leaves too much room for fake email addresses to pollute the identity landscape.

On the problem of scale, with less than 5 per cent of the open Web traffic logged-in, publishers also face the prospect of not being able to monetise 95 per cent of their traffic, Roche said.

“Should they force users to log-in? And they do that, what will the user experience look like on the Web if you have to log in on every website you visit?” he asked.

According to Woosley, some industry players are claiming new privacy regulation is rendering identity dead, when the opposite is true. “New regulation makes digital media’s history of anonymous transacting impossible for the future,” he said. 

“Why would the industry concede authentication to Google and Facebook and return to the Stone Age of context alone, especially when antitrust regulators are breathing down their necks?

“By enjoining the digital media industry to treat a cookie or IP address with the same standard of care as a social security number, regulation has empowered digital media to start operating on fixed and manifest identity.”

Alternative approaches

The Trade Desk isn't the only vendor looking for solutions. As Google’s deadline of 2022 to retire third-party cookies approaches, other adtech players are also moving to offer cookie alternatives.

For instance, ad sales platform, PubMatic, has just announced a global integration with LiveRamp on its Identity Hub. The expanded partnership between PubMatic and LiveRamp will enable publishers to implement LiveRamp’s authenticated traffic solution while connecting their inventory with LiveRamp’s identifier across Web and soon, mobile apps and CTV.

LiveRamp senior vice-president, head of addressability and ecosystem, Travis Clinger, said along with the looming end of cookies, there are new restrictions on device identifiers and new forms of inventory. 

“This reinforces the need for people-based identifiers and interoperable solutions that maintain neutrality and preserve the consumer experience,” he said.

Added to this is the announcement from identity resolution outfit, Neustar, of the launch of Fabrick, a unified identity ecosystem. It brings together Neustar proprietary services, data and technologies with the aim of linking brands, publishers and users.

Roche said the advertising industry needs a more inclusive method to identify users that also works for all types of publishers and all types of content, including publishers that cannot command a login.

"And we need an identity infrastructure that can rise to the privacy and data protection challenge that publishers and brands are facing in their relationships with consumers,” he added.

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