Meta is starting to talk more about data clean rooms as one answer to post-cookie advertising, but it has some reservations about the technology that is among the industry’s most-hyped products.
Dennis Buchheim, VP of Meta’s advertising ecosystem, said he is worried that ad tech leaders at an IAB event on Thursday might “throw tomatoes” at him for saying so, but data clean rooms are “not fully secure, they’re not fully private, in all cases.” The sentiment around clean rooms, coming from the second-largest internet ad company in the U.S., might be considered blasphemy by ad tech firms and publishers that have wholeheartedly embraced the concept.
Buchheim shared a slide during his talk, labeling clean rooms as “identifiable data,” and the slide compared that to “privacy-enhanced technology,” which relies on aggregated data, meaning it's based on groups of data that obscure identity.
The question of what is identifiable data and what’s anonymous is not a minor one. The FTC recently said it will pursue companies that claim to collect “anonymous” data when that data could be easily linked to identity. Clean rooms offer keepers of data a secure environment to host and query that data, which can still be personal, but the entities are responsible for obtaining consent from consumers to use it.
The clean room space is heating up: Google and Amazon, Meta’s top rivals, are developing their own data playgrounds, as are top publishers including Disney and NBCUniversal. There are many different flavors of data clean rooms, but essentially they all allow a publisher to share data with advertisers about their audiences so they can target ads and measure ad outcomes like sales.
Clean rooms are considered a more secure way for platforms and brands to play with data sets, without technically sharing that data with each other, while also managing consumers' consent. Clean rooms can help organize what data publishers share, with what partners, and for what purposes.
Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, is developing a different answer to clean rooms, by pursuing privacy-enhanced technology, using encrypted and aggregated data to hide consumer information, but still returning useful calculations to advertisers.