Tags: How To Secure Your Greatest Asset

Website Tracking

In 1921, the first year the statistic was recorded, the US driving fatality rate was 24%. For the 55 billion miles driven that year, there were over 13,000 deaths. Cars were relatively new, roads and road systems were novel, but consumers’ distrust and fear were growing. How would the nascent auto industry and government work together to regain customer trust and confidence in the industry’s investment in protecting their safety?

Everyone recognised that the benefits of driving should far outweigh the risks, they just needed to establish the mutually agreed upon guidelines and features needed to get there.

Today, the world of website tracking faces a similar situation. Tags and scripts placed on websites, often indiscriminately, are the early days of risky driving placed in the context of valuable advances in digital advertising. Do your web operations employees look concerned every time marketing staff request another tag be placed on your site? They are not alone.

What’s more, chances are multiple departments are coming to you more frequently with these requests.

They no doubt have good reasons to request each new tag. Ad technologies continue to emerge, each with a new solution to better help you to more effectively serve advertisements, measure those ads, retarget consumers, deliver new types of media, and then assess your ability to do all of the above efficiently.

So you may debate the point and discuss the associated elements of risk, but then the business case is made and you implement with fingers crossed.

Why the concerns? Because you know that these tags increasingly represent the largest data risk facing your company. As ad technologies that collect and aggregate consumer data expand their scope, they create giant ‘big data’ pools that dwarf the databases held by banks or health care companies that were traditionally seen as breach targets. In contrast, a successful ad tech business holds consumer data for billions of individuals across millions of websites.

For companies that wish to capitalise on innovation, each new tag can help drive a smart business strategy. How, then, do you lower the risk they bring?

Mastery over your tags is possible: given their proliferation, their tendency to bring in third parties, and the increasingly complex data landscape, now is the time to do it. Control begins by assessing your vulnerabilities and risk – which tags are on your pages and how do they get there? Are there third parties on your site bringing in other third parties? You have a relationship with each of these vendors, so need to know who they are and what data they can access.

In addition to the risk of your consumer database being vulnerable, there are a host of other opportunities available to irresponsible third parties. These include: using etags to deliver undeletable cookies; malicious code injection through tag scripts; bot created ad fraud; redirecting consumers to scam websites; and the insertion of false ads onto pages or into spots purchased by someone else.

Once you know who has tags on your site, it is important to establish clear agreements about what they may do, collect and share on your site. You are trusting each of these data partners with the security of your website, and this trust works best with clear guidelines and agreements.

Once they’re in place, it’s vital to continually monitor your pages. When creating this process, make sure you choose a supplier with insight into all of the tags across all pages, even those behind paywalls, logins and webforms. Ideally, their solution should be tagless to avoid adding to the risk assessment. Establish a whitelist so that you can be notified when unauthorised vendors appear on your site and appoint someone in your organisation to be point on first and third party vendors.

By 1946, the car fatality rate dropped below 10% and, by 1991, it fell below 2% and has continued to decline each year, while the numbers of drivers and road systems have grown exponentially. Driving remains dangerous but the beneficial systems and safeguards have succeeded in building consumer trust and devotion to the open roads.

The tracking road map, as it continues to expand, can achieve the same results, provided you and your vendors are willing to implement the needed protections. Continually monitor and you will control tags while reaping the benefits they bring. Your consumer has entered into a contract of information trust with you; honour it while improving your data strategy.

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Amy King

Amy King leads Product Marketing at Evidon. She manages the development of new data products and works with marketing to bring them to sales and clients. When not serving as a bridge between engineering and sales, she enjoys writing and speaking about tracking and the invisible web. Before joining Evidon, Amy was a Vice President at artnet where she oversaw the Price Database and other data products. Amy has a Master’s from the University of North Carolina and earned her B.A. from Davidson College.