Can Blockchain Help Negotiate the Challenges of GDPR? Q&A with Stephan Shakespeare, YouGov

Noncompliance with the upcoming GDPR could cost businesses millions of euro in fines. Is blockchain an option that can provide the transparency and accountability enforced by the new rules? ExchangeWire speaks to Stephan Shakespeare (pictured below), CEO, YouGov Direct, whose ad platform is blockchain-based and ready to sell permissioned, GDPR-compliant consumer data and information to advertisers.

ExchangeWire: Why is GDPR an issue for brands and publishers on a global scale?

Stephan Shakespeare, CEO, YouGov

Stephan Shakespeare: GDPR aims to grant EU residents increased control over their data or, more specifically, their Personally Identifiable Information (PII). The regulation recognises that PII has become an increasingly important commodity in the digital sphere; and it isn’t fair for brands to directly profit from selling consumers’ PII without their consent. The regulation is based on the premise that internet users deserve to have a say in how their data is being used. In order to establish this new layer of trust, global businesses and brands that plan to collect and use PII from EU residents will need to request explicit permission. Businesses that do not comply with the regulations will be subject to potentially debilitating fines, €20m (£17.54m) or 4% of annual global turnover (whichever is greater). This applies to any business that is using PII within the EU, whether or not the business has a base in the EU. In any case, several countries outside the EU have intimated they will be looking to emulate GDPR; and this is part of a broader movement towards data privacy that will sooner or later affect most of the internet.

How will blockchain help advertisers and publishers comply with GDPR?

In advance of GDPR coming into effect in May, advertisers and publishers will need to develop systems for tracking permissions granted by EU residents. Blockchain technology is an ideal mechanism for securely tracking the exchange of data. By recording permissions on a distributed ledger, publishers and advertisers will be able to verify and prove they are meeting GDPR requirements to avoid incurring hefty fines. YouGov intends to soon launch a blockchain-based platform and ad network, YouGov Direct, that intends to meet these needs for advertisers and publishers.

How is YouGov Direct leveraging blockchain to support advertisers and publishers in meeting GDPR requirements?

By building its platform on the blockchain, YouGov Direct is able to treat the targeted delivery of each ad as an individual transaction that can then be recorded and verified. YouGov’s existing five million panelists will be able to opt-in to the ad network and begin earning rewards for sharing anonymised attributes and, of course, it’s very easy and enjoyable for anyone to join up. Businesses using the YouGov Direct platform not only gain access to known audience attributes for more effective ad targeting, but they also can be assured the data provided is permissioned and, therefore, meets GDPR requirements. Additionally, YouGov Direct aims to support publishers in improving user experience on their sites. By referencing YouGov Direct’s voluminous data, publishers can infer more about visitors than can be gleaned from existing measurements, including clicks, time spent on pages, etc.

What does GDPR mean for consumer data protections?

Today’s digital economy is powered by ad dollars. In exchange for free access to internet-based services, such as search, email, and chat, consumers must often sacrifice their privacy. Corporations like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Twitter harness copious amounts of personal information about consumers based on their online behaviours. GDPR considers the ability of these tech giants to collect and sell this data to advertisers as an invasion of privacy. The regulation insists that businesses ask consumers for permission prior to using their data in any capacity. Businesses must be explicit about the way in which the data will be used. GDPR also requires that consumer data be used in a relevant way, a timely manner, and be kept safe and secure. By enforcing GDPR, the EU will be setting new standards for use of consumer information online, potentially transforming the expectations of citizens around the world towards consumer data protections.

How do you see the advertising landscape shifting after GDPR regulations are implemented? How will YouGov Direct support this shift?

We are entering a new era for digital advertising with the advent of GDPR. The EU is setting a precedent that we expect more countries eventually will follow. Advertisers will need to adjust their systems and adapt new technologies, not only to meet GDPR requirements, but also to match increasing consumer demands in regards to protecting their personal information. Growing awareness among web users about the value of their data will continue to shift expectations of online businesses, leading to a more transparent and secure digital landscape along with better advertising and increased trust between advertisers and audiences.