A paradigm shift is afoot in digital advertising. The White House’s new national cybersecurity strategy might not seem that important to those that make the digital advertising ecosystem function—brand advertisers, platforms and publishers—but it paves the way to a changing mindset that puts consumers first. In effect, the government is saying digital trust and safety is a duty for all businesses. In fact, it just might be critical to national security.
Key Elements of the Cybersecurity Strategy
Traditionally, cybersecurity has been about protecting the organization. The new Cybersecurity Strategy flips that thinking to be about safeguarding consumers.
The strategy outlines 5 key pillars, of which two directly affect digital advertising: Disrupt & Dismantle Threat Actors and Shape Market Forces to Drive Security & Resilience. Teasing out these pillars it’s clear that holistic change is coming to digital.
First, the strategy aims to shift cybersecurity liability to those who have the expertise to mitigate it. By tasking companies to take more responsibility for the security of their products and services, it removes the burden from consumers who are typically not in a position to defend themselves from cyber risks.
“Any such legislation should prevent manufacturers and software publishers with market power from fully disclaiming liability by contract, and establish higher standards of care for software in specific high-risk scenarios”
“All service providers must make reasonable attempts to secure the use of their infrastructure against abuse or other criminal behavior”
Second, the strategy moves away from voluntary, industry-led initiatives to more government collaboration and regulation. It will enhance cyber capabilities of the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force (NCIJTF) to make it easier to disrupt online attacks by fostering more collaboration. It extends basic ‘Know Your Customer’ (KYC) guidance already followed by major institutions with international customers to the digital realm.
“Given the interest of the cybersecurity community and digital infrastructure owners and operators…collaborative disruption operations can be carried out on a continuous basis. Threat specific collaboration…would share information bidirectionally and work rapidly to disrupt adversaries.”
Clearly, it behooves digital players to pay attention to the expectation of due care and accountability for those who fail to protect consumers.
When Reality Hits the Road
It won’t be a quick regulatory path to digital trust and safety. The national cybersecurity strategy will undergo a tedious legislation and regulation process, something that experts project can take 10 years to accomplish barring administration and legislative changes.
While that’s underway, it’s likely to breathe life into other consumer protection initiatives. In fact, ADPPA is expected to get out of committee and put up for vote by the U.S. House of Representatives (again).
And, the pressure has already been seeping into digital advertising. Big Tech feels it, with ongoing investigations, continued scrutiny of TikTok, and updated policies from Google Ads. While there’s initial concern about China and other nation states having extensive access to consumer data, concern for the holistic consumer experience is in the air.
Everyone Has a Responsibility in Digital
Taking responsibility for what you do to consumers is at the heart of this national cybersecurity strategy—something that directly aligns with privacy-first directives already in progress.
It’s not too hard to put consumer safety at the core of all business decisions. A few steps can set you on the right path:
- Adopt a policy to reject content and practices that harm consumers, e.g., adult, weapons, scams, financial theft, etc.
- Enforce the policy by not only blocking the harmful content but also communicating the violation to upstream partners
- Use TAG as an industry-wide conduit to shut down those that continue to harm consumers
Ad quality should not be a check box. It should be a living philosophy to do what’s right to safeguard everyone throughout the digital ecosystem—consumers, businesses, governments, universities and more. Those that have already adopted this approach have discovered it’s the path to long-term loyalty and monetization.
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