IAB joins Google in proposing bid-request limits to clean up real-time bidding

Amid ICO investigation, digital ad industry trade body wants to minimise 'potential risks that content categories can pose'.

GDPR: IAB is due to update investigation's progress in January
GDPR: IAB is due to update investigation's progress in January

The Internet Advertising Bureau UK has proposed limiting the information that advertisers can glean from web pages amid a major investigation into adtech and General Data Protection Regulation data breaches.

The digital ad industry’s trade body is echoing Google in its proposals to clean up the digital supply chain, as mandated by the Information Commissioner’s Office. 

In an update to its members, the IAB is proposing to minimise "the potential risks that content categories can pose".

Content categories, which are used in bid requests in real-time auctions for online ads, can be used to build up profiles of internet users alongside personal information, including sensitive data such as political beliefs and sexual preferences. 

The IAB said it plans to adopt "rules" for the UK market that would minimise the inclusion of content category data in a bid request when it is generated. 

It said: "Our understanding is that this information is not critical to the ad-serving process or other associated processes (such as content verification, which uses other data). We are working on how we define these 'rules' and how they can be technically implemented in practice."

The IAB is now seeking feedback from members on more specific proposals before it formally writes to the ICO next month about how it intends to clean up the digital advertising ecosystem.

The ICO, which enforces the European Union’s GDPR, is investigating the way data is shared and used in real-time bidding, the process by which online ads can be bought programmatically within nanoseconds. In June, it gave the industry a six-month deadline to start showing progress that it was working to address widespread breaches of data handling and consent.

Sensitive data, known as "special category data" in the GDPR legislation, can not be processed without a user’s explicit consent. 

Earlier this month, Google – the world’s biggest advertising company – said it would no longer include contextual content categories such as "news" or "weather" in bid requests. 

The ICO is due to announce the investigation’s progress in January, but is not expected to issue a formal report as it did in June.