While most companies are leery of new government regulations impacting their industry, Scott Howe, CEO of LiveRamp, believes federal regs would be a positive move.
LiveRamp calls itself the “leading provider of omnichannel identity resolution,” or, as Howe puts it, his company is the subway system connecting a city-full of data-dependent players. He also calls his company the electrical grid, as well as the pipes connecting all the world’s data. He’s fond of analogies.
What LiveRamp isn’t, he’s quick to say, is a data broker. His company doesn’t create the data marketplace. It just makes it easier for all the players to conduct their transactions.
Those players include advertisers, agencies, 6 of the largest holding companies, and 18 of the 20 largest U.S. publishers. Expect LiveRamp to figure heavily in the future of advanced TV, which is all about knowing the viewers and serving them the right ads at the right time.
Speaking to reporters at a press gathering today in New York City, Howe explained that the data system we have now is like if every phone used a different network and couldn’t communicate with each other (another analogy). Many companies have customer data, but they use their own identifiers and can’t easily share data or combine their data with that from other companies. What’s needed is a central way for companies to work with shared data. An ideal central system would also let consumers delete or correct data, as they wish.
“We believe there needs to be a useful, agnostic preference setting,” Howe says. “The world is best served by having a one-stop shop.”
How do federal regulations come in? Because in the absence of federal data privacy regulations, states will create their own. In June, California passed a wide-ranging privacy law that will impact how companies treat personal data. It goes into effect January 2020, but has a 12-month look-back period, so companies will need to up their privacy game starting in 2019.
Other states might follow with their own data laws. Better to have one federal system rather than several state plans.
“I think we’ll see probably another half-dozen states embrace some type of privacy regulation. What I’d like to see in the U.S. is federal privacy legislation,” Howe says. “I think having different rules in different states really creates a tough situation for both businesses and consumers. Having a single common denominator seems to me to be something that is a nonpartisan issue and something that can bring our Congress closer together to work on something together that’s good for all Americans.”
While these are early days for privacy legislation, he’s optimistic that we’ll soon work out a system that benefits all players.
“In 10 years, we’ll talk about this in the same kind of matter of fact way that we talk about the power grid or the phone grid,” Howe says.