Lou Mastria – Leading Player in the Privacy Ecosystem

What is your organization’s role in the privacy ecosystem?

The Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) was “created to give consumers better information and control over using data for interest-based advertising,” explains, Lou Mastria.

The DAA sets and enforces standards for the advertising ecosystem through our Self-Regulatory Principles for Interest Based Advertising, and we give consumers simple access to information about and control over data collection use for interest-based ads through the blue “Your Ad Choices” icon on ads, sites and increasingly apps.

By doing so, we provide a robust self-regulatory regime that strengthens the ad-supported digital ecosystem and helps drive innovations in the delivery of online and mobile content and services.

Originally founded by six trade associations in the United States, DAA has expanded through parallel sister organizations to 34 nations in 26 languages.

The DAA icon, in particular, provides an intuitive and ubiquitous ad marker and links that supplement privacy policies. From this icon, consumers are given enhanced notice and reliable access to choice controls.

The DAA Icon is now served globally more than 1 trillion times per month, and the DAA choice pages receive an average of 10 million unique visitors per year.

TrustArc is one of two approved providers of DAA programs in the U.S. – providing a turnkey solution for brands, agencies, publishers and ad tech firms to consider for DAA Principles implementation.

What key goals/issues is your organization focused on tackling?

Our goal is a consistent user experience – no matter what screen the consumer may be using. We are working to create that consistent framework on devices so we can continue to build trustworthy experiences for consumers and companies to rely on with regard to online data collection and advertising.

    • DAA’s Consumer Choice Page,
    • Consumer Choice Page for Mobile Web,
    • and AppChoices for cross-app data collection choice

How have your organization’s goals/focus changed over the years to address evolving technologies or challenges?

The DAA constantly monitors changes in technology, consumer attitudes and behavior, and advertising ecosystem practices to ensure our program adapts to those shifts in a technology-neutral manner.

For example, we recently issued mobile guidance to show marketers how to apply DAA Principles for interest-based advertising and multi-site data (including cross-app) collection in the mobile environment.

The guidance served to identify first- and third-party responsibilities for enhanced notice and control, addressing specific data categories such as cross-app data, and providing a higher level of consent with regard to precise location data and personal directory data.

These responsibilities will be enforced by our two U.S. enforcement partners – Council of Better Business Bureau’s Advertising Self-Regulation Council and Direct Marketing Association – beginning September 1, 2015. Both CBBB and DMA are independent enforcers of these precepts in the marketplace.

Another example is the video area, where DAA is close to announcing ad marker specifications for video interest-based ads.

Looking ahead – what are the most important data privacy issues/concerns you think need to be addressed by the industry and/or government legislation?

The Digital Advertising Alliance believes that effective self-regulation is the most powerful and effective tool to protect consumers without disrupting the rapid technological innovation of the marketplace.

One of our current areas of focus is cross-device linking, as advertising technology companies are trying to better understand how to responsibly reach fragmented audiences across their multiple desktops, laptops, tablet, and smartphone devices.

Along with mobile, cross-apps and location, cross-device linking is another good example of how we seek to keep pace with changing technology and practices with more speed, nuance, and flexibility than government regulation.

What is the biggest current threat (to consumers or businesses?)

In my mind, any outcome that undermines the great value created by advertising is a threat to the entire digital ecosystem, as advertising is the financial fuel that powers the engine of the free Internet.

That’s why the DAA works to build responsible data collection and educate consumers about the information and tools they have available.

“Our goal is to help foster an environment where responsible data collection can continue to serve and benefit an ad-funded marketplace.”

How do you think the Privacy Ecosystem will/needs to evolve over the next 3-5 years to be fit for purpose?

Self-regulation has long provided a working construct for innovation.

    • It is flexible, while most government laws and regulations are not.
    • It is enforceable, when such accountability for self-regulation is independent and potent.
    • It addresses marketplace changes adeptly and quickly, with the support of consumer protection agencies, if needed.

More often, however, companies themselves drive higher standards through the self-regulatory process, as it is reinforced by their business goals and brand identity.

Robust self-regulation must be inclusive of all of the participants in the data collection and advertising ecosystem, large and small, established and fledgling. And it has to be easily accessible by the consumer.

This is no small feat, but it is one for which the DAA stands as an effective model.

Tell us about your role at the Digital Advertising Alliance.

I joined the DAA in a leadership role in 2012 after many years working for companies and associations in the digital marketing space. Since then, our small team has built the program to include hundreds of companies, and thousands of brands, as participants.

As a self-policing organization, we work to educate the ad ecosystem about how to adhere to the Digital Advertising Alliance Principles, including new guidance in areas like mobile, and how to use the DAA Icon and our Consumer Choice tools.

In short, I’m part industry evangelist – bringing new companies on board to participate – and part educator – helping companies understand how to implement DAA program so that the consumer gets the benefit of the real-time notice and control she’s offered by this accountable program. 

How did you start working in the privacy field and why do you enjoy it?

The privacy community is indeed a community – a boisterous, dedicated and growing one. That alone is one big reason I enjoy my work.

My career as a privacy professional has spanned both regulatory and self-regulatory organizations, and both perspectives have shown me how innovation, data and technology are helping to make the world a better place, and advertising is a vital part of that process.

I’m happy to see relevant messaging as fuel for competition, and responsible data collections makes such positive outcomes possible for all of us as users and consumers of myriad online content and services.

What do you wish more [people, business, etc.] knew about privacy?

Too often, privacy is presented falsely as an us-and-them proposition. Privacy is good for business. It drives both business growth and consumer engagement, congruously in a virtuous cycle.

That doesn’t mean privacy dialogues are always smooth – they often are not – but it does mean there are often shared objectives, and that enables working constructs for privacy and innovation in tandem.

We can and must have both.


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