Terms of Privacy: 2021

This news report from the future is designed as a thought experiment to explore one possible future for personal information assets…

Sunday, July 4, 2021 – Philadelphia Hard to believe that it was just six years ago that the first Terms of Privacy (TOP) apps burst onto the market in a big way and began the process of rapidly transforming first the world of online advertising and then virtually everything else.

As we all know, the idea of consumers using an app to “counter” standard terms of service agreements with their own “terms” was fiercely resisted at first. “What nerve! Don’t they realize that the only appropriate response is to click the I Agree button?” But a few established players viewed supporting Terms of Privacy Apps as a way to disrupt their bigger competitors. Before long we were well on our way toward realizing the two major goals outlined in the Terms of Privacy Treaty.

First, assure that the consumer receives a fair share of what was then almost $150 billion in global online advertising fees. As the lines between the categories of “online advertising” and “TV advertising” have blurred in recent years, consumers are now sharing in almost $500 billion in fees with advertisers globally. And the number of global TOP accounts is now almost 1.5 billion. The second goal was to help consumers better “manage” their personal information. Some framed this goal in terms of “privacy” while others focused more on how their complete personal data record could prove an enormously valuable asset both for advertisers and to others such as researchers and medical professionals.

One of the inspirations for the first TOP browser plugin apps came from an unlikely source – Google. When the search giant announced in 2013 that they were considering following Apple’s lead and dumping dependency on the traditional “cookie” in favor of an anonymous identifier, it begged the question – What if consumers aggregated these identifiers across all digital relationships and forged their own agreements to share this data?

The beauty of the Terms of Privacy agreements is that they were able to ride on the existing ad marketplace infrastructure. The same sell side platforms that publishers used to sell their ads carried an identifier of the first party data provider (aka the consumer) so that a piece of the ad fee could be transmitted to their account and the advertiser could be provided with access to a record of the terms under which this data was being shared. The rising power of the consumer that these agreements unleashed is still reverberating through the global economy.

NOTE: This is an excerpt from a book to be published in January 2014, “Tomorrows Enterprises” by Brian Mulconrey


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