Good news for publishers and advertisers fearing the GDPR

ProjectVRM 2017-09-03

The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is the world’s most heavily weaponized law protecting protecting personal privacy. It is aimed at companies that track people without asking, and its ordnance is fines of up to 4% of worldwide revenues over the prior year.

The law’s purpose is to blow away the (mostly US-based) surveillance economy, especially tracking-based “adtech,” which inconveniently supports most commercial publishing online.

In the words of a Dutch guy I talked with a couple days ago, “several seconds will pass” before the first missiles are launched after the deadline for compliance arrives: 25 May 2018, just a couple hundred days from now.

There is no shortage of compliance advice, much of it from the same suppliers that talked companies into harvesting lots of the “big data” that security guru Bruce Schneier calls a toxic asset. (Go to and see whose ads come up.)

There is an easy way, however, for publishers to continue to running ads and companies to continue impressing people with advertising: a way that’s 100% GDPR compliant because it comes in the form of the simplest deal any publisher can make with any reader. All the publisher needs to do is agree with this request:

That request, along with its legal and machine-readable expressions, will live here:

The agreements themselves can be recorded anywhere.

What matters is that there won’t be an easier way for publishers and advertisers to avoid getting fined by the EU for violating the GDPR. Agreeing to exactly what readers request puts both in full compliance.

In addition to being able to run ads, there are two added benefits of what we might want to call #SafeAds:

SafeAds have five huge advantages:

  1. Unlike adtech, which tracks eyeballs off a publisher’s site and then shoot ads at those eyeballs anywhere they can be found, #SafeAds actually sponsor the publisher. They say “we value this publication and the readers it brings to us.”
  2. Unlike adtech, #SafeAds carry no operational overhead for the publisher and no cognitive overhead for readers. So there are no worries for either party about where an ad comes from or what it’s doing behind the scenes.
  3. Unlike adtech, #SafeAds carry no fraud or malware, because they can’t. They go straight from the publisher or its agency to the publication, avoiding the corrupt four-dimensional shell game adtech has become.
  4. #SafeAds carry full-power creative and economic signals, which adtech can’t do at all, for the reasons just listed. It’s no coincidence that nearly every major brand you can name was made by #SafeAds, while adtech has not produced a single one. In fact adtech has an ugly history of hurting brands by annoying people with advertising that is unwelcome, icky, or both.
  5. Perhaps best of all, advertisers will pay more for #SafeAds, because those ads are worth more.

If you’re a publisher, an advertiser, a developer, an exile from the adtech world, or anybody else who wants to help out, talk to us. The deadline is a hard one, and it’s coming fast.