Eyeota's Kristina Prokop on Privacy, Facebook's Opt-In Plea, and the US App Ban Suspension

The MadTech Podcast

On this week’s episode of the MadTech Podcast, Kristina Prokop, co-founder and CEO of Eyeota, joins ExchangeWire’s Rachel Smith and Ciaran O’Kane to discuss the latest news in ad tech and martech.


Together, they discuss:


– Consumers are too hung up on the “Peeping Tom theory of privacy”, writes Wired’s Sam Whitney (who also coined the phrase). This is the perception that the current digital targeting and tracking ecosystem leaves us susceptible to having our most intimate details stolen and mishandled by companies, who care more about turning a profit than protecting the privacy of the individual.

Whitney argues that a preoccupation with the accuracy of some targeted ads (which consumers have often referred to as “creepy” for their seemingly psychic power to appear with minimum related searches/activity) is a distraction from the more significant threat posed by tech giants like Apple and Facebook when it comes to the collection and use of individuals’ information. Whitney also asserts that this phobia fails to recognise the legal efforts currently taking place in the US that aim to improve responsibility and transparency from tech leaders.

Moreover, the perception of privacy as a fundamental right of the individual, claims Whitney, is irreconcilable with aims to regulate the internet of today. The web is built on a foundation of interconnectivity, and companies are not interested in consumers as individuals – rather, their interest is in aggregated data, which is fed to algorithms and is highly unlikely to be seen by another human being. Therefore, this “Peeping Tom” perception is misguided, and distracts from the real dangers that accompany behavioural and other types of targeting.


– Facebook has been trialling a new pop-up on iOS 14 that aims to convince users to agree to being tracked for advertising purposes. The screen, which has been tested since the start of this month, is set for a global trial on the social media giant’s flagship and Instagram apps.

According to reports, the Facebook screen appears before the compulsory opt-in request prompt that developers must present to users as part of Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework. The additional pop-up is said to provide more information regarding the Mark Zuckerberg-helmed company’s privacy safeguards, as well as how it uses consumer data for personalised advertising. 

Facebook argues that it’s important to get this information across, and claims that, whilst the language of the ATT prompt can be adjusted to an extent, the function is not flexible enough to truly convey the value of opting into tracking. One version of the prototype tells users that agreeing to have their data collected will help “support businesses that rely on ads to reach customers”, phrasing which leans heavily into Facebook’s attempt to position itself as pro-small businesses (and, therefore, the antithesis of Apple).


– The Biden administration has pressed pause on legal action against China-based social apps TikTok and WeChat. The postponement leaves a question mark over whether the deal agreed by TikTok-owner ByteDance to divest the US arm of their short-form video platform to Oracle and Walmart will eventually go ahead.

According to reports, the new US government has requested that the commerce department put the action on hold whilst they get up to speed on the details of the case. The prospective bans were the product of an executive order issued by former president Donald Trump, who accused the apps of feeding information on their users back to the Chinese government. Claiming that they posed a credible threat to national security, Trump ordered that the apps either submit to US ownership or face banishment from the nation’s cyberspace.

Considering the determination of the Biden-Harris government to leave the Trump era firmly in the past, some speculate that the legal action will be dropped entirely. Until this is confirmed, however, the apps will be allowed to continue to operate in the US. This is particularly good news for TikTok, who risked losing one eighth of their 800 million global user base if the ban went ahead. What the development will mean for the Walmart-Oracle deal, however, remains unclear.


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