Today, IAB Europe published a summary of the solution approach for supply chain standards which has been created to help online platforms meet supplementary advertising transparency requirements imposed on them by the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA).
Under the DSA, online platforms must provide users with certain information about every ad carried on their sites or apps. The information must be available for each ad. IAB Europe’s DSA Ads Transparency Taskforce has developed a specification for an industry solution to enable the collection and delivery, and facilitate user-facing disclosures, of the required information. The document we are now sharing is a summary of product requirements and solutions, explaining how the standardised protocol will work and what different participants in the ecosystem will need to do to help responsible parties comply with these new DSA transparency requirements.
The protocol is a complete solution in that it provides the minimum elements necessary to facilitate communication between parties of the information necessary to make DSA-compliant disclosures. Implementers will then have the flexibility to render the DSA Transparency to end-users using their own preferred methods. Our protocol leverages existing mechanisms already in place in the supply chain, including the OpenRTB bid request/response. This is not a self-regulatory program
While not all content publishers meet the definition of online platform under the DSA, there are many, diverse, ad-supported content providers that do.
The DSA requires that, in conjunction with ads served on online platforms, the platform is responsible for disclosing certain information about an ad:
Given the nature of the digital advertising ecosystem, it is common, even typical, that online platforms do not themselves have all of the data needed to populate the information disclosures. Therefore, IAB Europe set out to standardise a protocol for compiling and delivering the required information through the ad supply chain such that it could be received by the online platform, or another party acting on its behalf, to make the disclosures to users.
In July 2022, IAB Europe convened a stakeholder taskforce for this purpose. The taskforce is made up of companies from diverse segments of the industry. Experts from these companies have met approximately weekly to develop and finalise an initial version of our industry solution for delivery of DSA ads transparency. Now with partnership with IAB Tech Lab, the IAB Europe Taskforce can fully focus on policy/legal questions so that IAB Tech Lab can focus on technical questions.
Our mandate for the taskforce was to produce a minimum viable product that would facilitate implementation of the ads transparency disclosures. Our anticipation was that, although standardisation was not absolutely necessary, Platforms could work organically with their partners to develop their own approaches to gathering the necessary information. Without a standardised protocol, it would be a chaotic and friction-filled process to navigate. With some standardisation, companies could be more effectively aligned.
One of our guiding principles was that our protocol should be adaptable to the many diverse circumstances in the ecosystem; there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
In the same spirit of flexibility and adaptability, our view is that platform publishers, since they are legally responsible under the DSA, should have control over (and visibility into) disclosures being made to their users, if they want it. But we also aimed to support optionality such that the disclosures could be made from within the ad creative. We explicitly sought to make it possible for platforms to put the information behind the widely-used AdChoices icon.
Other principles that guided our work were:
The attached Summary Document is not the full specification. The full specification will be published by IAB Tech Lab, in collaboration with IAB Europe. It will will become an official part of TechLab’s corpus of standards and specifications that define how the industry operates.
The Summary Document explains how the protocol works, and in many areas, the reasons why it is designed as it is. It provides enough information for companies to begin implementation. In our view, the bulk of the work of implementation falls into two areas:
These tasks can be started while awaiting the final technical specification. IAB Tech Lab will now steward the draft specification in order to undergo Tech Lab’s Working Group processes to update and finalise.
The Summary Document also suggests areas for future work, which IAB Europe looks forward to taking on in collaboration with TechLab.
If you have questions about the taskforce or the DSA specification, you may direct them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to continuing to support the industry in advancing transparency and choice for internet users.