IAB Tech Lab presents Google with Privacy Sandbox gap analysis following Annual Leadership Meeting

The third-party cookie’s demise creates plenty of gaps in how digital ads are bought, sold, served and measured. Google’s Privacy Sandbox plugs some of those gaps, but IAB Tech Lab has identified more that need filling.

On Tuesday, after the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Annual Leadership Meeting concluded, IAB Tech Lab executives were slated to meet with Google regarding Privacy Sandbox’s capabilities and limitations, according to six people with knowledge of the matter. An IAB Tech Lab spokesperson confirmed the meeting.

“At the event, we’ve been encouraged by the number of IAB members who are building privacy-preserving adtech offerings using the Privacy Sandbox building blocks,” said Anthony Chavez, VP product management, Privacy Sandbox. “And while some focus on objections, we’re looking forward to continuing to collaborate with partners focused on solutions. Building today’s programmatic ecosystem introduced many new complexities, had to solve the chicken or the egg problem of testing, evolved to support new use cases, and took years of hard work by the ecosystem to achieve. Building a more private web with privacy-preserving advertising will be no different.”

The focus of the meeting was to be a gap analysis that IAB Tech Lab conducted that found Privacy Sandbox’s current set of proposals doesn’t cover certain use cases, such as ad placement guarantees, budget and billing management, among others. IAB Tech Lab plans to publicly release the gap analysis next week.

In total, IAB Tech Lab’s analysis covers more than 40 marketing use cases. One person with direct knowledge of the gap analysis’s contents, who requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the deliberations, said that approximately 30 of the cited use cases are not currently supported by Privacy Sandbox.

A second person who had seen the gap analysis document said “the biggest gaps are around reporting. Like, it’s unclear in the future how publishers will get data that they need for revenue calculations and how quickly they will get that and how that will work…. The Sandbox right now as it stands from a reporting perspective for advertisers is a little bit of an island. It’s hard to integrate what you can learn there with all your other channels and programs that you’re doing. That needs to be solved for.”

IAB Tech Lab had shared a draft of the gap analysis with Google last week. The meeting was scheduled for IAB Tech Lab to formally go over its findings with Google as well as for Google to provide any feedback on those findings. Examples of feedback IAB Tech Lab is seeking would be if any gaps are actually covered by Privacy Sandbox but that such coverage may not be clear from Privacy Sandbox documentation or requires certain implementation considerations.

To be clear, Google has been explicit that Privacy Sandbox is not supposed to be a complete third-party cookie replacement and made sure to reiterate that point during ALM.

“We are not trying to provide one-for-one replacements for cookies and cross-site identifiers. Full stop,” Chavez said.

That being said, advertisers, publishers, agencies and ad tech firms are trying to figure out to what extent Privacy Sandbox fills the gaps created by the third-party cookie’s absence and to what extent they will need to employ alternative solutions. 

“Everybody has been testing whether these things are technically possible, whether [Privacy] Sandbox can be used, but not whether they work for the needs of buyers or sellers,” said one publisher in attendance.

A third person with knowledge of the Privacy Sandbox deliberations explained to Digiday the comparatively “slow drip” nature of how the Privacy Sandbox APIs will operate pose ad tech companies with difficulties when it comes to deciding how to allocate their resources.

This third person, who requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the deliberations, said, “What’s difficult is that a lot of companies have had their 2024 budgets allocated at the tail-end of 2023, but as new information comes out [after that] you have to go back to your CFO and ask for additional resource for more engineers.”

Multiple ALM attendees who were aware of the meeting and its agenda described it as important for drawing attention to how Privacy Sandbox proposals need to be further developednto more adequately cover the broader industry’s needs.

“The document, as it stands, is a good start. The collective we — Tech Lab, companies in the industry, Google — need to work together to figure out what are the true dealbreakers, the non-negotiables. We have to get this working; let’s figure out how we collectively do that,” said the second person.

Conference attendees explained to Digiday some of the practical concerns they have given the current state of documentation on the Privacy Sandbox proposals, a common thread was how many feel they have little control over contractual relationships across the supply chain.

For example, under the existing Privacy Sandbox proposals much of the decision takes place in the browser, but few ad tech companies (such as DSPs, etc.) have such formalized relationships with Chrome.

Speaking previously with Digiday, IAB Tech Lab CEO Anthony Katsur voiced similar deliberations, while separate conference attendees voiced concerns over which parties will verify campaign reporting under the current proposals.

The ALM attendees said their hope is that IAB Tech Lab’s meeting and analysis will result in those gaps being filled as future iterations of Privacy Sandbox proposals roll out.

“We have a lot of feedback on Sandbox,” said Index Exchange CEO Andrew Casale on stage during the Privacy Sandbox breakout session. “To us, it really reads as a V1 design. This is the beginning, not the end. And so the way we try to approach it is: If this is the beginning of a new form of addressability, let’s try to look at it [with] eyes open in the most positive way possible, which is: Can we make this design work? And then adjacent to that, [provide] feedback and ideas to hopefully make it a whole lot better.”


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