Privacy by Design Exemplified—Adobe Announces the Adobe Marketing Cloud Device Co-op

Today, Adobe announced the Adobe Marketing Cloud Device Co-op. It exemplifies the concept of Privacy by Design. More than a year ago, the product team working on this project came to my team to tell us about their plans to create a co-op that would address a problem our digital marketing customers face in a world where most consumers interact with them online on multiple devices.

Consumers are using more and more devices to access the websites and apps they love. Recent Adobe research suggests that nearly eight in ten consumers (79 percent) and 90 percent of millennials report switching devices some of the time when engaged in an activity. This makes it very hard for companies to personalize an experience for their consumers when they don’t know that they’re dealing with the same individual on multiple devices. Let’s look at an example: When I plan a vacation, I often do a quick search for flights on my phone. I enter in the dates I want to travel and where I want to go (Hawaii of course!). If I get interrupted in the middle of my search (which happens far too often), I appreciate it when I go back to that search on my phone and find that the site remembers where I left off. However, if I pick up that search on my laptop instead of my phone, more often than not, that site doesn’t realize I’m the same person who started searching for Hawaii trips earlier, and I have to start all over again. If the site knew that I was the same person on both devices, it could populate the search on my laptop with the information I last entered on my phone.

Another example of a benefit for me is that I wouldn’t keep seeing the same ad on all my devices. Advertisers don’t actually like to inundate and annoy consumers by showing them the same ad over and over again. This is why advertisers typically set limits of how often they’ll show a person the same ad (say five times)—which is referred to as “frequency capping.” If the consumer doesn’t click on that ad, the advertiser will stop showing it. In this example, I might see that same ad 20 times if I have four devices because the advertiser doesn’t realize that I’m the same person on all those devices.

The Adobe Marketing Cloud Device Co-op will help companies address this problem. It will also help them realize that I’m the person who just booked a flight to Hawaii on my laptop, so they don’t need to show me an ad for Hawaii flights anymore on any of my devices. They can start showing me ads for fun things to do when I’m in Hawaii.

While the benefits of our new solution to marketers were obvious, we were also very aware that cross-device marketing done badly has long been associated with being “creepy” from a privacy perspective. When we started working on our cross-device solution, our teams had a shared vision and recognized that we had the opportunity to transform the experience of cross-device into one of transparency and control for the consumer. Also, since we were offering this solution to our marketing customers, and our customers make up some of the worlds’ largest brands, we knew that it was not only the Adobe brand that was on the line. Our customers would expect Adobe to handle this well and provide a solution their consumers could trust.

We embarked on a mission to explain a complicated technical issue in plain English and offer consumers a “meaningful” choice—one that they could understand and trust. We believed, tested and proved this to be true—that the more consumers understood the more they appreciated having a choice. More often than not, they said once they understood what was happening, they were fine with it.

So how does the Co-op work?

Let’s go back to my travel example above. If I have three devices, but I have only logged in to the airline site on two of those three devices (say my phone and my laptop), the airline won’t recognize me on my third device (my tablet). This is where the Co-op comes into play. If I have logged in to other Co-op member sites from my tablet, Adobe will associate all three of my devices with the same individual (but we still won’t know it’s me personally). We call this association a “device cluster.” We will make the association between the devices and then pass that device cluster only to companies participating in the Co-op who have seen my device.

Adobe receives no personal information about the consumers visiting Co-op members’ websites. All we learn is which devices are associated with the same unknown person or household.

Here are some of the key privacy features of the Adobe Marketing Cloud Device Co-op:

The Device Co-op demonstrates our commitment to providing our digital marketing customers with innovative solutions that are designed with consumer privacy in mind. From the beginning of development, we worked with the product team on a shared vision for consumer transparency and choice. This led to a superior product offering for marketers and consumers alike. We are all quite proud of this new Adobe Marketing Cloud solution.

One final word on availability: As is often the case with new offerings, we are releasing the Co-Op in the United States and Canada first, since the majority of our customer requests for a cross-device solution have been coming from the U.S. and Canada. Following the release of the Co-op in the U.S. and Canada, we will evaluate whether to introduce the Co-Op in other regions. Obviously, regional laws and requirements vary, so if and when we decide to introduce the Co-op in other regions, we will do so in compliance with applicable laws.