Over time, we have seen how the digital advertising landscape has moved on from direct buys and premium website takeovers to data driven programmatic with advanced targeting strategies. Behavioural data targeting is nothing new, and it’s been the unique selling point for tech vendors and publishers for many years in the industry. These adtech innovations may seem common to industry insiders, but with technology moving at a rapid pace, the general population is not necessarily aware of the technology advancements, especially the amount of data collected behind the scenes. 

The recent release of the Netflix documentary “The Great Hack” has brought this topic to the masses and made the public aware not only of data collection, but also the potential for misuse and abuse of this data with a specific focus on political tactics. This has brought forward new concerns around data privacy from the public which as an industry we need to address.


“Data surpassed oil in value, data is the most powerful asset in the world.” – The Great Hack

Data intelligence has always been used in digital campaigns to target consumers with ads for products or services that might be of interest to them. On the contrary, we have seen how companies “weaponize” the usage of data for political usage. Before the documentary was released, it is likely the public was not aware of the data they were parting with on a daily basis and the options they have to opt out of this data collection. With the release of the Great Hack, are users going to be more aware and demand more protection of their data? Or are they too used to the status quo to have the desire to demand changes?


Publishers and adtech vendors have been selling ads with data as their unique selling point. On the other side of the equation we have advertisers looking at innovative ways for better targeting, reducing wastage in ads ultimately leading to an increase in ROI. It could be argued that throughout the supply and demand chain, all parties bear some responsibility for the use of data. A more existential question to ask is whether our industry’s use of data is really different from firms like Cambridge Analytica – the context might be different, but aren’t we all trying to influence behaviour through using data?


We have seen an increase in regulatory approaches to privacy, with a new Thai data protection act being adopted earlier this year, following the adoption of the GDPR in Europe and the California Consumer Privacy Act. These laws can help to bring awareness and protect the rights of consumers. However, if countries and regions continue to adopt different privacy laws, there will be inconsistencies in what compliance means. This poses a challenge for brands working on a global level to implement their use of data in varying ways at local levels.


Southeast Asian countries and India face unique challenges with different languages, levels of digital advertising knowledge, and technology infrastructure. With Thailand signing a new data protection bill into law earlier this year, and the  Indian government proposing their own comprehensive new data protection law, it appears that governments are taking the lead on enhancing user privacy protections. 


With brand safety issues and ad fraud on the rise, the adtech industry in the region has been actively focusing on brand safety and ad fraud, but is it now time for data privacy to be part of the equation?

With The Great Hack bringing the topic to the everyday consumer, we may see slight behaviour changes in terms of how users manage their data. But taking into consideration digital habits are stronger than ever, it is unlikely this will impact the supply of data seen in the region for publisher and advertiser usage. However, with the ambition to be prepared and ahead of a potential consumer backlash that may come in the future, should movements be made to identify new regulations push for greater awareness on our data rights in our society?

This thought leadership piece was written by Brand Safety Working Group Members Kaixin Kang, Client Solutions Manager at Linkedin, Elizabeth Glancy, Digital Director, FAST Strategy at Mindshare, and Anne-Marie Zimille, Head of Ad Operations Asia-Pacific and Japan at Teads.