Get a PET and win in the privacy game

Targeted advertising is going to drastically change to accommodate the new user privacy requirements. As more users on the internet are concerned about who and how uses their data, stricter regulation is killing some of the most vital tools of digital advertising. Third-party data will quickly be retired from the advertising arsenal, as they pose serious privacy breaches.

Therefore, the hunt is on for different technologies which will still give advertisers the data they require for targeted, precision advertising that will reach their target audiences without abusing user privacy or other security concerns. And while it is possible to acquire consent for first-party data, the level of consent given and how that can be securely established makes acquiring consent a half-measure in practical terms.

This is where privacy-enhancing technologies (PETs) come in, the newest technology in advertising data tools which preserve user privacy. In this article, we’re going to look at what PETs are and how you can use them to step up your advertising game without privacy concerns haunting you.

What is privacy-enhancing technologies (PETs)?

Privacy-enhancing technologies (PETs) consist of hardware and software designed to protect user privacy while still processing data. There is a wide range of PETs already available and in use, from virtual private networks (VPNs) to cryptography tools and payment processing protections.

In general, a PET is any technology which provides robust privacy protection and minimizes data loss or data breaches. Now that advertising tools such as third-party cookies are being rendered obsolete, PETs are where advertisers are turning to for maintaining their access to advertising data without privacy concerns.

PET technology examples

To give a more tangible conceptualization of what PETs are and how they are already being applied in the digital world, here are some examples:

  • Data masking tech such as VPNs focus on hiding the user’s actual identity and vital information ad creating new, fake information with which the user can surf the web.
  • Cryptography tech uses algorithms that encrypt (scramble) the data being sent and decrypt the data (unscramble) when they are received by the recipient. Such PETs are zero-knowledge proof (ZKP) and secure multi-party computation (SMPC).

How PETs can be used in advertising

AdTech has three main functions: collecting data, sharing data, and processing that data to yield vital insights for future advertising campaigns and marketing approaches.

Because of the nature of these functions, using PETs is necessary to ensure that user privacy is secured. For each of the AdTech functions, there are PETs you can use:

Data collection

Since AdTech needs to collect and store data, PETs that specialize in data minimization can ensure that only the data that is relevant to the purposes intended are stored by AdTech. This will limit the amount of data that can be breached, protecting user privacy while at the same time requiring less storage space to keep it. The purpose also needs to be specific and legitimate, making the legality of data collection even more robust.

Identification and data sharing

AdTech will also be able to protect users from being identified or reidentified by keeping their data encrypted. Encryption goes a long way in doing this, and there are three main methods of encryption being used: symmetric encryption, asymmetric encryption, and hashing. The difference between symmetric and asymmetric encryption is the number of encryption keys used, depending on the needs of the users. Hashing on the other hand involves conversion of an entire string of values.

For data sharing, PETs can help companies work with datasets without being able to access personal information from users while minimizing potential unauthorized access. There are many methods for doing this, from differential privacy to multiparty computation (MPC).

Data processing and ad targeting

PETs can help keep up privacy requirements for several functions. The same PETs that work well for identification and data sharing can be used for data processing needs.

For ad targeting, other PETs such as federated learning can help advertisers extract the insights, they need without ever accessing private user information. The data is processed on the user’s device and the results of that processing are sent out to the ad companies, without any identifying information in the set.

PETs are the future of AdTech. It’s telling that even if you hadn’t heard of PETs before now, you have used them one way or another. Major platforms such as Facebook are already committing to protecting the privacy of their users through such technologies.

It’s the perfect time to settle any privacy issues without having to give up on your normal AdTech setup through using PETs and getting ahead of the game in a seamless, dynamic, and solid upgrade everyone will soon be doing anyway.

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