A Call for Trust, Transparency and User Control in Advertising

Advertising is the Web’s dominant business.  It relies on users for its success, and ironically fails to engage with them in a direct and honest way.  We are advocates of the many benefits that commercial involvement brings to the development of the Internet – it is at our core and part of the Mozilla Manifesto. Advertising is one of those commercial activities, it fuels and grows the Web. But the model has lost its focus by failing to put the user at the center.  We are calling initially on the advertising industry to adopt three core principles of trust, transparency and user control:

1)  Trust: Do users understand why they are being presented with content? Do they understand what pieces of their data fed into the display decision?

2)  Transparency: Is it clear to users why advertising decisions are made? Is it clear how their data is being consumed and shared?  Are they aware and openly contributing?

3)  Control: Do users have the ability to control their own data? Do they have the option to be completely private, completely public or somewhere in between?

We are re-thinking the model.  We want a world where Chief Marketing Officers, advertising agency executives, industry groups and the advertising technology companies see the real benefits of a user-centric model. These three principles give us the ability to build a strong, long term and more valuable platform for everyone.

What are we doing?

Our intention is to improve the experience as a player within the ecosystem. We’ll do this by experimenting and innovating.  All of our work will be designed with trust in mind.  Tiles is our first experiment and we are learning a lot.  Right now, we are showing users tiles from their “frecency” (recent and frequent sites), along with Mozilla information and suggestions and content labeled as sponsored. This experience is pretty basic but will evolve over time. Initial user interactions are positive. Users interacted with content labeled as sponsored that we placed in directory tiles 10x more than Mozilla-based content.

Our next step will be to give users more transparency and control. Our UP platform will eventually help to power tiles and will help determine which content is displayed to the user.  The platform itself is innovative as it currently allows the interests data to sit client side, completely in the user’s control. The data can still be accessed there without us creating a dossier on the user, outside of the Firefox client.

We will then put the user first by building an interests dashboard (something that we are already working on) that offers users a way to easily change their interests or participation in enhanced content at any time. The dashboard provides a constant feedback loop with users and will work with all our enhanced content projects.

What can we promise?

We will continue to demonstrate that it’s possible to balance commercial interests with public benefit, and to build successful products that respect user privacy and deliver experiences based upon trust, transparency and control.

  • We want to show the world you can do display advertising in a way that respects users’ privacy.
  • We believe that publishers should respect browser signals around tracking and privacy. If they don’t, we’ll take an active role in doing so and all our enhanced content projects will respect DNT.
  • We will respect the Minimal Actionable Dataset, a thought stream pioneered by one of our fellow Mozillians to only collect what’s needed – nothing more – and be transparent about it.
  • We will put users in control to customize, change or turn product features on/off at any time.

We can’t change the Web from the sidelines, and we can’t change advertising on the Web without being a part of that ecosystem. We are excited about this mission and we’re working hard to achieve our goals. Stay tuned for updates over the coming weeks.

If this resonates with and you have ideas or want to help, we’d love to hear from you by leaving comments below or by filling out this form.

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  1. David wrote on :

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