5 Ways Data Privacy Will Evolve in 2022

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In 2021, the private sector got serious about data privacy, led by Big Tech gatekeepers such as Google and Apple, who are making it harder for businesses to track consumers without their consent on desktop and mobile. The privacy startup sector exploded, and adtech vendors rolled out new trackers left and right to fill the gaps left by cookies.

But the glut of new solutions does not mean that martech, much less the private sector as a whole, has figured out how to prepare for the future of data privacy. Here are five privacy predictions to keep an eye on in 2022. It would be in your best interest to determine how you and your company are affected.

1. Universal IDs will consolidate

You would think that with all of the attention that Universal IDs get in the press, the industry has it all figured out. Far from it. When trying to solving the problems posed by cookie deprecation, the UID is a spot solution, scavenging for 10% of the total addressable market with 90% of consumer activity inside walled gardens.  Anyone who has studied the principles of product-market fit (PMF) would raise an eyebrow at the attention UID’s garnered, considering the number one principle of PMF is the size of the total market. Ten percent seems a little light to me, not to mention that dozens of companies are competing for this 10%.

In 2022 we will see several consolidations, bankruptcies, and pivots in this space as funding, competition, and demand wane. The most significant catalyst here was the delay in the deprecation of the cookie to 2023, all but eliminating the demand for UID overnight. The pitch continues to be that ‘the UID is present in X% of the bidstream,’ but the reality is without demand, this is wasted effort. 

The industry, true to form, defaulted to the notion that the cookie WILL go away in 2023, but I am not so sure. The combination of the ineffectiveness of Google’s FLoCs and its recent attention from privacy experts suggests the strategy of removing the cookie in the name of privacy might backfire.  

2. Keep an eye on email

The adtech and martech industries have a nasty tendency to focus on the thing that is six inches in front of their faces, missing the larger trend. Lost in the conversation about UIDs and the removal of the cookie is the reason these IDs are being removed in the first place: privacy. Swapping one ID for another without acknowledging privacy puts you right back at ‘GO’ every year. The fixation on the email illustrates this perfectly.

First, a summary of the inherent hypocrisy. The cookie is being removed due to privacy, so let’s replace the cookie with a more privacy-invasive, deterministic ID that can’t be reset to solve our problems. Genius.  

In 2022, the wind will be removed from the sails of email due to large technology firms stepping in. This is happening with Apple introducing Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) in late 2021 on mobile devices. What is MPP? As stated by Apple: ​​Mail Privacy Protection hides your IP address, so senders can’t link it to your other online activity or determine your location. And it prevents senders from seeing if and when you’ve opened their email.  

In addition to removing pixels, MPP inflates email open rates and puts a ton of pressure on anyone doing email or lead-gen marketing, especially when you consider iOS has approximately 50% of the handset market. In 2022, MPP will expand to the latest version of Mac computers (macOS Monterey), further impacting the industry. 

This is just the beginning. Apple obfuscating email is undoubtedly a problem, but the trend we have seen over the years is where Apple starts, Google follows. We saw this with changes to location collection as well as mobile ID tracking, so expect an MPP solution to begin to manifest later on in 2022 for Google.

3. Google will get stronger as the open web gets weaker

When Big Tech makes privacy moves, they do so in ways that strengthen their own particular business. Apple, for example, uses privacy as a way to differentiate itself from Facebook, Amazon, and Google. Google has a more ambitious angle: to suffocate the open web and force everyone on to Google Island.  

In 2021, someone inside Google finally woke up and realized, “Why are we providing all of these other companies with data to build solutions and compete with us? Why don’t we use ‘privacy’ as a way to cut off the oxygen for every company that depends on this data? The competitors will fade away, and the publishers who are already not on the Google stack can come into the fold or stay on the outside and die.” 

This is the Sophie’s Choice of the Internet. Choose to join the walled garden of Google, thereby accelerating the demise of the open web — or go it alone, and likely accelerate the death of your own business. 

4. One thousand two hundred and ninety-seven

That’s the number of data hacks in 2021, a 17% increase over 2020. Does anyone think this number is NOT going to increase again in 2022? 

In building the massive data industry, we have inherently created an enormous security issue that is continually being exploited by others. By funneling our data to thousands of independent firms, we create an endless source of honey pots for hackers to exploit. 

Unfortunately, without a change in architecture, this will continue to accelerate. In 2022, it’s only going to get worse as COVID and digitization bring five years of digital migration forward, in turn creating a larger pool of unsuspecting companies. This is the new arms race for consumers and businesses. Everyone needs to 5x their attention to personal and corporate security starting in 2022 or suffer the consequences.

5. Data broker, bye bye

There are approximately 6,000 data brokers registered in California. A similar number is recorded in Virginia. The estimated total revenue generated by these brokers is estimated to be $200 billion in 2022. With privacy legislation and tier-one brands’ awareness of data liability growing, expect to see a rapid migration of dollars and demand away from these partners. It’s hard to imagine ANY data broker surviving the loss of identifiers, the increase in privacy legislation, and consumer pushback. 

I continue to be baffled by how a data broker with no UI and no method of managing consent that resides in California can continue to operate. Agencies chasing cheap data are partly to blame here, but as their clients start to get wise to the gaps in fidelity and consent, the days of third-party data as foundational to advertising and marketing are coming to an end.

Neil Sweeney is CEO and founder of Reklaim.