Digital Innovation Guest Columns
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Why publishers should adopt Global Privacy Control, the new privacy standard

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With Gartner predicting that more than 65% of the world will be covered by privacy legislation by 2035, navigating online privacy may be one of the most significant online business challenges of the next decade.

Certainly, the ever-tighter regulatory environment around online privacy poses an essential question to publishers. How can users be given the opportunity to communicate complicated privacy preferences without ruining their online reading experience, and how do publishers navigate this maelstrom of legislation without incurring unnecessary expense or, worse, costly fines for non-compliance?

One potential solution is the Global Privacy Control (GPC).

How the Global Privacy Control Can Help Publishers

With adoption from prominent organizations and use agreements already in place at a host of major media organizations, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Financial Times, the Global Privacy Control signal is on track to make online privacy painless.

GPC works by combining a range of user privacy preferences such as cookie usage and third-party data access into a single pre-configured signal that participating organizations automatically pick up. If a consumer uses GPC, their opting in or out of data use preferences no longer happens on a site-by-site basis. Instead, whenever someone uses a GPC integrated browser (like Brave) or a GPC browser extension (like Blur) to visit a participating site, pre-configured privacy preferences are automatically communicated to the site owner.

While doing away with the need to tick boxes allows consumers a seamless online experience, GPC is also a proactive tool for streamlining regulatory compliance for publishers. By rolling privacy into one automated signal, coordinating user preferences is more straightforward and does not require diminishing anyone’s on-site experience.

Even though recognizing GPC signals is not something any business is legally obliged to do right now, this is due to change soon. California’s take on GDPR, the CPRA, comes into effect in 2023, and will make recognizing the “do not sell/share my data” signal that GPC users send legally necessary for many businesses. As an inherent feature of its design, GPC is also geared towards seamlessly meshing with GDPR, making EU-wide adoption a strong possibility.

Why GPC Will Succeed Where ‘Do Not Track’ Failed

Anyone familiar with online privacy history might point to Do Not Track (DNT) to illustrate why automated approaches to online privacy don’t work. At Abine, we feel that this is a misguided opinion. Since DNT ultimately failed to gain widespread industry and consumer adoption, we have seen firsthand how both the privacy landscape and consumer preferences have changed dramatically.

Key to GPC’s likelihood of gaining widespread adoption is that rather than being built for potential privacy legislation in the future, GPC is made to slot into today’s regulatory environment. Under the CPRA, which covered consumers in the state of California (the world’s fifth-largest economy), the GPC is likely to constitute a legally binding order that, if not honored, can stipulate large fines.

Unlike DNT, GPC also has large-scale political support in the U.S. from senators such as Ron Wyden and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. However, perhaps most importantly, GPC gives consumers a genuinely better online experience — after all, who likes wading through a minefield of opt-out preferences?

The Publishing Industry Case For GPC

Rather than focusing solely on the legislative benefits that being an early adopter of GPC can bring, by proactively adopting GPC, publishers can also make respect for privacy a business asset. By using GPC as a tool to minimize third-party use of a reader’s data, publishers can both leverage greater value from their hard-won audiences and attract new readers.

Speaking to DigiDay, Robin Berjon, VP of data governance at The New York Times, highlights the business case that drove his organization to become an early adopter of GPC, “The less a publishers’ data gets leaked downstream, the more the value of that unique audience data is likely to increase.” Berjon also added that “As a news publisher, the trust of our readers is absolutely essential, so we need to be worthy of that trust in pretty much everything we do and how we operate as a business.”

With many publishers fed up with tech giants taking the vast majority of advertiser revenue, the prospect of greater privacy can also be a powerful incentive for attracting subscribers and increasing revenue. Studies show that control over data use is the number one thing that consumers want when it comes to privacy. For publishers, GPC can help respond to this desire without impacting the reader experience.

Final Thoughts

While navigating the changing landscape around privacy will, to some degree, be a legal imperative for most publishers, it also presents an opportunity for repositioning privacy at the core of the publishing industry.

Using the GPC signal to make privacy a critical operational asset means that publishers can adapt to legislation and get ahead of consumer trends.

Rob Shavell, Co-Founder and CEO of Abine

About: Founded in 2009 by MIT engineers and financial experts, and based in Massachusetts, Abine‘s mission is to bring easy-to-use online privacy to consumers. Since the ways companies collect, share, and sell your data is constantly changing, Abine strongly believes online privacy solutions must continuously improve and evolve to address these ongoing challenges.