5 min read

OTT on the Rise: How to Build Privacy and Consent into Apps

Ashlea Cartee
Ashlea Cartee
Updated on
September 15, 2020

OTT, or “over-the-top,” serves as the new, modern way to consume digital content — and presents new opportunities for publishers and advertisers to reach streaming content users in a whole new way.

OTT content is streamed directly to viewers via the Internet — instead of through cable, satellite TV, broadcast, etc. According to The Trade Desk, consumer media habit shifts to online are rapidly accelerating: nearly two-thirds of US households don’t have cable or plan to cut the linear TV cord this year, and eMarketer research finds that more than half of US consumers’ digital video views will be with OTT services this year.

You’ve most likely interacted with OTT content through streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Video. The success of these platforms indicates a seismic shift in how consumers engage with video content.

OTT also presents a gold mine of audience targeting capabilities for publishers and advertisers — as well as new challenges for ensuring user privacy and consent.

Privacy implications for OTT app owners and publishers

This new type of content distribution allows for the delivery of hyper-targeted content to consumers in more innovative and personalized ways. However, it also creates complexities around handling consumers’ personal data.

Personalized data has been at the heart of the privacy movement ever since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rolled out, followed closely by the CCPA and other privacy laws. These regulations, and even tech giants such as Apple and Google, have enacted guidelines for how personalized data is captured, stored, and used. Publishers and advertisers should not only think about privacy for their website — but also how to implement their consent strategies across mobile devices and apps.

As more publishers enter the OTT arena, it’s crucial to think about applying a privacy strategy beyond the standard website to mobile and OTT applications.

By implementing privacy controls into OTT applications, publishers can avoid legal ramifications. They can also transparently communicate with consumers to build trust and positively impact opt-in consent and preferences.

Here are a few of the ways that OTT app owners can address privacy regulations while delivering the personalization that audiences increasingly expect:

Leverage IAB TCF 2.0 to signal OTT consent to ad tech vendors

Publishers and advertisers should consider incorporating IAB TCF 2.0 — the collaborative industry solution for conducting targeted advertising in compliance with GDPR — into OTT applications. TCF 2.0 is designed to standardize the collection and transmission of user choice and transparency on digital properties. This supports the digital advertising supply chain to align with GDPR and ePrivacy requirements.

When implementing a Consent Management Platform to support OTT app compliance, it’s a good idea to verify that the CMP is compliant with TCF.

The IAB TCF not only provides a common language for user consent and data collection, but also an environment of trust and transparency.

Comply with GDPR and CCPA requirements

Article 15 of the GDPR gives data subjects the right to know if a company is processing their data, and if so, access to that data. Additionally, there are specific record-keeping requirements for response times, extension requests, identity validation, and secure response transmission to the individual. Similarly, the CCPA enables consumers the right to access and delete personal information, as well as the right to opt-out of the sale of personal information. To comply, OTT application owners need to ensure they have a scalable and efficient way to process and respond to consumer rights requests. Maintaining detailed, ongoing records for compliance is an essential practice.

Example of OneTrust CMP privacy consent form for OTT applications
Source: OneTrust

The solution? Implementing a Consent Management Platform (CMP) with these capabilities. A CMP with these features will not only support publishers and advertisers to comply with global regulations, but also signal consent downstream to ad tech vendors and create a more seamless user experience across devices.

Capture and carry consent across devices

The ability to consume video content on-the-go has become easy with improved portability of device and streaming options. You may have noticed how common it is to see both adults and kids watching streaming content on their devices in every environment. We are all accustomed to viewing content across multiple devices — and locations.

One challenge for publishers will be how to preserve a consumer’s consent and preferences across all their devices. This can be done by capturing consent using a unique identifier and then applying the user’s consent across devices, no matter where content is being consumed.

Looking ahead

While there are certainly challenges around OTT content distribution — and a critical need to ensure consumers’ personal data is protected — this can be a win for publishers. As consumers continue to shift to streaming, OTT applications provide another new way to interact with users and deliver unique and personalized experiences.

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