New platform aims for radical change in how data consent is collected

US start-up Beacon believes it will redefine how consumers allow their data to be used.

Toscano: founder of Beacon
Toscano: founder of Beacon

The opaque methods that tech companies, brands and publishers use to comply with data protection laws could become a thing of the past if a new privacy-conscious partnership has its way.

The Better Ethics and Consumer Outcomes Network, known as Beacon, has teamed with Crownpeak, a cloud-native digital experience platform, to produce a dynamic system that updates automatically and explains in plain English why and how companies collect data.

For example, it will automatically sweep a company's online platforms to see what trackers are being used and for what purpose. This information then auto-generates a user agreement that uses colour-coded messaging and can be updated in real time.

The system is provocatively named the "Trust and Consent Framework by Beacon", similar to the Interactive Advertising Bureau's Transparency and Consent Framework that provides guidelines to companies for being compliant with data protection laws such as GDPR in Europe. Critics have warned that the IAB's framework is inadequate when open-market ad buying practices such as real-time bidding are too large and complex for any internet user to consider consent.

Beacon, founded by author and former Google experience design consultant Joe Toscano, believes the new product will redefine the way consumers experience end-user legal agreements, including privacy policies and terms of service. Toscano founded the Omaha-based company last year.

He said: "We see this partnership as an incredible opportunity to rethink the way consumers engage with legal agreements across the internet and believe the work we’ve produced with Crownpeak has the opportunity to become a new industry standard globally.

"It’s our goal to spark a larger conversation within the industry about what is broken within the current consent-giving system, while also providing a platform to discuss ways to improve it."

Rather than being simply a cost-saving exericse for companies, it is hoped that a cultural change will come about in which plainer and more comprehensible consent procedures will deliver a competitive advantage for those that use the system.

"What we’re seeing in the market today isn’t just a sharp increase in data privacy laws like the California Consumer Protection Act and GDPR; it’s a sharp decrease in consumer trust," Darren Guarnaccia, chief product officer at Crownpeak, added.