Are You Ready for the Onset of Data Privacy Protection Laws? GDPR’s Effects on OOH Owners, Advertisers, and Marketers

by Joshua Lawton, 4/16/18

Unless you’ve been lost in the Amazon without cell phone signal for the past several months, you’ve probably heard and read about GDPR. By May 25, 2018, it will become the law of the land in Europe and is going to impact American businesses selling into Europe. Many OOH owners and media buyers in the United States that we have spoken to, while concerned about the impact of GDPR on their businesses, do not believe that there is going to be foreseeable impact on them in the near future. Depending on your where you stand on the privacy debate, fortunately or unfortunately, efforts by the European Union to regulate data privacy is already being felt across the United States.

While focus on both the EU’s and Germany’s actions within the data privacy realm have been the talk of some time, the eyes of many tech companies are watching what Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner is going to do. While Ireland is both small in relative terms of GDP and population, as a tax haven for many American tech companies, the ability of Helen Dixon, Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner to “slap companies with fines of up to 4 percent of global revenue — which for Facebook could mean penalties of up to $1.6 billion” is going to create a trickle down environment that will affect American businesses.

Even though there are numerous real obstacles to the European Union guaranteeing digital privacy rights, these obstacles have not prevented companies and US states from taking up the mantle of protecting digital privacy rights. California, the highest GDP state in the USA, has recently approved the California Consumer Privacy Act to be on their November ballot. While less restrictive than GDPR, it holds several key provisions that, if passed, will affect everything from digital advertising to programmatic buying:

  • Gives consumers right to learn categories of personal information that businesses collect, sell, or disclose about them, and to whom information is sold or disclosed.
  • Gives consumers right to prevent businesses from selling or disclosing their personal information

However, since neither the California Consumer Privacy Act has been passed nor is GDPR the law of the land in the United States many companies are trying to figure out just what they should consider to be Personally Identifiable Information (PII). Unfortunately, the summary provided by the European Union itself on what it considers to be PII is broad:

Any information related to a natural person or ‘Data Subject’, that can be used to directly or indirectly identify the person. It can be anything from a name, a photo, an email address, bank details, posts on social networking websites, medical information, or a computer IP address.

Therefore, for OOH owners and media buyers, it is important to understand that GDPR’s sole focus beyond consumers owning and knowing what is happening with their data is the ability to identify natural persons by bringing together specific identifiers. the online identifiers specifically mentioned in GDPR. Recital 30 of the GDPR clarifies that natural persons may be identified with online identifiers which are provided by:

  • Devices,
  • Applications,
  • Tools and
  • Protocols, such as
  • IP (Internet Protocol) addresses,
  • Cookie identifiers, or others such as
  • Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags (which brings us to the Internet of Things).

Recital 30 is going to make it problematic for data companies that have not taken our approach at Abraxas Technology to focus on being in compliance with GDPR to revamp their collection and data structure to be in compliance with GDPR. This means that for both media buyers and OOH owners who rely on data to make pricing and buying decisions, they are going to have to look to different means to do so in the OOH industry.

That said, GDPR could be a boon for the OOH industry by leveling the data playing field. The one common complaint by advertisers and marketers is that the OOH industry lacks the wealth of data that they are able to obtain online from companies like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. If these companies are no longer able to provide the same data to marketers and advertisers moving forward, the gap between the OOH industry’s and the online advertising industry’s ad spends could be narrowed significantly.


Joshua Lawton-Belous

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