Handle with Care: 10 Steps to Good Data Stewardship

Data Stewardship—the collection, management, use, storage and disposal of data—is becoming an increasingly important part of any organization’s operations. Maintaining ethical and efficient control over an ever-increasing data flow is also becoming a more demanding and necessary part of successful companies.

As the digital industry has grown and matured, digital publishers and advertisers have become increasingly dependent on data to drive their businesses. Interactive advertising’s very foundation is data created and exchanged by online consumers about their interests and intentions. That data is essential to guiding the creation and serving of relevant messages. Increasingly sophisticated techniques—using more and more data—are improving the power of publishers and advertisers to reach specific audiences through their computers, tablets and mobile devices—offering ever more pertinent words and images to assist consumers and businesses in their purchasing decisions. Throughout the process of making messages more relevant, good data stewardship is increasingly indispensable—and increasingly challenging. These converging trends are why we created this document.

In online advertising, good data stewardship is crucial to managing an especially unwieldy supply chain, composed, or at least communicated, entirely in the form of data. “The supply chain by which digital advertising is created, delivered, measured, and optimized is so porous and perilous that it jeopardizes consumer trust and business growth,” IAB president and CEO Randall Rothenberg wrote in a column published as we release this document. “The risk is so severe that the underlying innovativeness of the Internet itself is in danger of grinding to a halt—unless the interactive advertising industry agrees to police its own precincts and root out the malefactors.” (For more please see: http://www.businessinsider.com/iab-randall-rothenberg-supply-chain-2014-2#ixzz2sYPv8HQj.) In fact, the greatest part of policing our own precincts is to engage in good data stewardship.

Our first goal in publishing this document is to help our colleagues in the industry by providing a guide to current data stewardship practices, organized into 10 steps that walk the reader through to best practices in the field—and warn against some questionable practices.

The 10 Steps to good data stewardship the IAB Data Council identified are:

  1. Make your data policies transparent
  2. Ensure and regularly verify data quality
  3. Ensure data security: Use appropriate tools, training, policies and procedures
  4. Ensure data protection: Use appropriate backup, replication, and other tools and measures 
  5. Ensure contracts are clear and detailed, and made with reputable partners
  6. Define a reasonable time period for the retention of data
  7. Employ appropriate site-tagging, related maintenance and other procedures
  8. Clearly state the value proposition for online behavioral advertising
  9. Market your data and its power to help reach specific segments, but do not exaggerate
  10. Place useful, anonymous and non-proprietary data in the public domain 

Our second goal for this document is to lay the foundation for productive and ongoing conversations regarding best practices for our industry. We hope the document also helps the industry pursue the following objectives:

  • Identify additional proper and suboptimal practices in data stewardship in interactive advertising.
  • Raise issues, on an ongoing basis, that will help clarify good data stewardship in the industry.
  • Raise awareness of data stewardship in the advertising ecosystem, among businesses and consumers.

Privacy concerns relating to the use of consumer data also are an important facet of data stewardship in the interactive advertising industry. This document, though it touches on some of these concerns, covers a broader spectrum of issues surrounding data stewardship. For the IAB’s latest exploration of consumer privacy issues, specifically, please see IAB’s work in Public Policy. Here you will find up-to-date information on privacy issues, as well as more information about the industry’s first self-regulatory program in this space, the Digital Advertising Alliance’s Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising. 

Download the Data Best Practices