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Podcast: Cookies and The ID Challenge

NetWise Aug 25, 2021 3:25:12 PM
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Show Notes: 

Welcome back for another hang in the data-basement!
 
This week we're warming up to some deeper dives on cookies and the future of cookie-less marketing by starting with a quick intro chat about "The ID Challenge." Identifying people, and then eventually identifying users has never been a simple problem to solve. Of course it's even more complex in the digital space.
 

We talk about why we need IDs, in the real world and in the digital world, and then we talk about the transition to digital and the new challenges that digital media and data-driven marketing give rise to.

Which sets us up for cookies! Bam! Even the show notes were quick for this one.

Links:

From the episode:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satoshi_Nakamoto

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OAuth

https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/

https://www.dpreview.com/

Join the Data-Driven Marketer Discord: https://discord.gg/XtueptFubh
 
 

Transcript:

Adam Kerpelman:

What was your first screen name?

Brian Jones:

Reaper, I think. That was my name in Quake and stuff, [crosstalk 00:00:10] when we were playing network games in middle school or something.

Adam Kerpelman:

What about AIM?

Brian Jones:

I think I just had my name. That might be when I started T Brian Jones.

Adam Kerpelman:

Yeah. Really early I committed to just, "Oh, this just has to be personally identifiable, because I may use it for the rest of my life."

Brian Jones:

Yeah.

Adam Kerpelman:

I still do that. [crosstalk 00:00:27]

Brian Jones:

I just wanted to be a transparent kind of guy.

Adam Kerpelman:

Almost everywhere. The only difference on AIM was that I was [inaudible 00:00:34] because that was still a time where you would cold message people on this medium and they would go who's this? And then I would just wait, until they went, oh.

Brian Jones:

Ta-da. That's hilarious.

Adam Kerpelman:

Hey everybody, it's the Data-Driven Marketer sponsored by NetWise. I'm Adam.

Brian Jones:

I'm Brian.

Adam Kerpelman:

Welcome back for another hang in data basement.

Brian Jones:

Yeah.

Adam Kerpelman:

No guest this week. Which just so people don't think it's because we're unpopular, we're deliberately not doing guest episodes because we want to have time to be able to break things down, so.

Brian Jones:

Yeah. I learn a lot [crosstalk 00:01:17] doing these episodes that are just us.

Adam Kerpelman:

Right.

Brian Jones:

It's good, strategically for brand vision and positioning and all kinds of concepts for our business. So I appreciate you taking time to just chat with the two of us.

Adam Kerpelman:

So what are we talking about?

Brian Jones:

I don't know.

Adam Kerpelman:

Today.

Brian Jones:

Oh, we're talking about IDs, identification. Just broadly the idea of how do we identify humans.

Adam Kerpelman:

Whether this will stick or not. I don't know, but on paper, the title of this episode is, the ID challenge.

Brian Jones:

The ID challenge.

Adam Kerpelman:

We've talked some recently about graphs and specifically our ID graph, but there's kind of a higher challenge above that whole thing that I run into in almost every tech project that's particularly the stuff at the edge of technology. But then you run into it further down the stream of how developed a technology is and you realize they're still having the same problem. And that problem is correlating digital identities with real world identities, for whatever purpose. [crosstalk 00:02:33] Right, there's certain things that you need to know my social security... if I want to bank, you're going to ask me for my social security number.

Brian Jones:

Right. A lot of people would have you believe that there are major problems with physical, real life identification of people based on their IDs too, right? That's a huge conversation in the media, [crosstalk 00:02:52] depending on what kind of news you follow.

Adam Kerpelman:

Yeah.

Brian Jones:

Right. Identity theft is another, I mean, identity theft kind of indirectly speaks to the challenge of identifying people, right? Clearly they're misidentifying, those are false positives. You look like the person in whatever means I'm checking you, but you weren't. Whoops, you weren't the person. We just screwed that person over.

Adam Kerpelman:

That actually kind of gets to the first beat to hit in the conversation, which is, let's back it up, why does that matter? What's the point of identification? I mean, you think I'm crazy, but there are whole things happening in tech at the edge of blockchain and stuff where it's like this anonymous account just dropped some revolutionary shit and now we're all like, we'll go with it. I don't know who [Satoshi 00:03:39] is, but his Bitcoin works. Her Bitcoin, we don't know.

Brian Jones:

Their Bitcoin.

Adam Kerpelman:

Their Bitcoin.

Brian Jones:

We'll never know. So I think we have to buy respectful. I mean, identity is kind of everything on some level, right? I mean, all day when you're doing anything on a digital device, you're identifying yourself via a password and a username, that's identity. We don't think of it as identity. We think of it as a key, but actually it's not well, I guess a key is kind of the same thing, we think of it's the action of using a key in a door, but that's your house identifying that it's you and letting you in, right?

Adam Kerpelman:

That's one of those mind blowing perception shifts, what you're doing with your key and your door is identifying yourself to your house so that it lets you in.

Brian Jones:

Yeah.

Adam Kerpelman:

Everything's already a robot people.

Brian Jones:

Which is funny because we're to the point now where there are all these smart devices on your house and I don't think... I have like a Ring doorbell, I don't think I can turn on facial recognition, but maybe you can on some of the smart locks now, to just let me in by looking at my face. And now you really are just to human to human identity, right?

Adam Kerpelman:

There are companies working on that project problem for a lot of money.

Brian Jones:

So identity, I guess on some level is privacy security. If you have value, right, attributing value to you, it's not always about privacy either, right? If I produce something right, I want to get the reward for having produced the thing, content, media, ideas. I went to work, I get a salary, right? There's all this identity stuff wrapped up in everything we do.

Adam Kerpelman:

Yeah. So, when I talk about social security numbers and stuff, that's a government services problem. And certainly there's a what's the important of ID conversation, that's philosophical, identity politics, or having an idea of myself. But we're just talking about from a practical standpoint, the key is the better analogy. We don't want to let you into Instagram unless you're the person you claim to be particularly because now there are really high, valuable things happening inside of Instagram, people hack accounts and then trash them. And then the politicians use a hacked account as an answer for a lot of things before they realize we can tell when an account's been hacked.

Brian Jones:

Well, the Instagram one is, I think, starts to hit more on what we meant by this topic, right? Because there are two types of identity going on in these social networks now, there's identifying that you're the person who originally set up the account, right? I'm the person who gave an email and set a password and stuff. But then the meta layer is identifying that you're the person you're saying you are publicly in the app, right? If I log in and say, I'm Dwayne Johnson, The Rock, one of my favorite celebrities, they need to verify that I'm him before I start projecting to the world on Twitter and Instagram, that I'm him, right? So they have those verified accounts. But how the heck did they verify that.

Adam Kerpelman:

Even that is insanely difficult to deal with and they occasionally accidentally verify the wrong person with the same name and then it's a big to do. Because if you verify them as like a head of state, this happened, they accidentally verified the wrong person that was some kind of minister and yeah. So, there's the tying it to the real world part in the verification thing, right? That's an aspect of this, I don't know if we want to dig into it too much because it's a lot of that weird, like you said, facial recognition and stuff like that. That's not really what matters for marketing.

Adam Kerpelman:

There are a whole bunch of other reasons to need to process that stuff. So that you can run a background check on your Uber driver, which everyone I think wants to have happen if that service is going to persist. Instacart used it to run a background check on me when I signed up for that a few years ago, WeWork did it too when I rented a place from them.

Brian Jones:

I think a lot of places run background checks.

Adam Kerpelman:

They have an app just really quickly does background check and everything. That's anyway, that's one part of this and I think there's overlap in the technological solutions for this stuff. But I think what's a little more interesting to chase is that account level thing that we're talking about, which is how can they show you what they're supposed to show you on Instagram, without you first presenting your key so you can essentially get into your house of Instagram. And in the real world, it makes a lot of sense, right? They check your ID before they let you use the credit card, it's easy to solve that problem. And there's this real world aspect of, oh, this is the person that I intend to be. I don't know, who talking to at this family reunion, right? You want to whatever.

Adam Kerpelman:

But once it makes the leap to tech and everything's digitized, you set up the two way street that I talked about last week and so this is how we end up talking about it in the Data-Driven space. And it's kind of the same as a lot of conversations we've had with cookie lists, to make advertising and marketing work on these devices. We're trying to identify who these different accounts are and in a lot of cases you don't have the simple... Like Facebook is a [inaudible 00:09:09] garden so they have the context to be able to say, pay us and we'll put your ads in front of people and it'll be targeted and you're like, okay, whatever. But then there's that whole ecosystem that necessarily isn't. And so we're still having the same problems of, how do you come up with the standard that makes it so that everybody... I'm good with publications I go to knowing who I am and tailoring the advertisements so that I don't have to waste attention on things that are complete wholly irrelevant to me.

Brian Jones:

Well, it's a weird situation with marketing versus the key analogy to my house or the log-in analogy to Instagram because in your house or with Instagram, I actually need it. It actually needs to be you a specific person, right? With advertising really, we're just trying to present information to people who are in a likely group, a likely list of identities that might be interested in a product, right, where something might be relevant to them. So I don't really care who you are, I'm not trying to identify a particular person. I'm trying to identify a feature of a person which actually then makes it a whole bunch of different identity challenges, right? If you start to break down what companies are using it for, take programmatic advertising or take social, because I think generally that's more understood.

Brian Jones:

So Facebook, you have all these demographic features you can select, right? You can select age groups, you can select ethnicity. Although, maybe that's turned off in some of the platforms now, you can select job functions or interests, right? You can select cars they might drive, those are all different types of identity problems. And those all come off different data sets too, right, different data feeds, different actions people take. So no one's going on Facebook and saying, I want to advertise to Adam. They're saying, I want to advertise to somebody who is in market for guitars and I see a guitar on your wall, right? So somehow pull data out about this person on the internet and they identified them as in being into guitars. And so it's an infinite number of different types of identity problems in marketing, which is also kind of true in real life, right? You're also trying to identify people, you put people in buckets, they're your friends, they're your family, they're acquaintances, their coworkers.

Adam Kerpelman:

So the thing almost to call out is one of the magical things that digital does when it hits people, is it detaches you from some aspects of reality, right? You don't [crosstalk 00:12:08] have to be stuck in a world where anyone even knows your ethnicity. It's always one of the major tenants of any [inaudible 00:12:17] meta verse near future science fiction.

Brian Jones:

Right. You get to be an avatar now.

Adam Kerpelman:

You can turn off bullying. You can be whatever avatar you want.

Brian Jones:

Right.

Adam Kerpelman:

But there's a real reason for that and it's just anonymization, right. And so what's interesting about advertising is for all of our talking about the real world identity problem and linking it to the digital world and what a struggle that is to begin with. We don't care. I don't, it's different if I'm providing Uber or something, but I'm a marketer. All I want is to target people who might be interested in the thing that I have to promote.

Brian Jones:

Right.

Adam Kerpelman:

I don't care who you are.

Brian Jones:

Yeah.

Adam Kerpelman:

I mean, I do on paper demographically, because you're our target customer, but past that I don't need to know that you are Brian Jones, etc, etc. [crosstalk 00:13:14] And in fact there's good arguments for breaking that link so that people can't vindictively target the one person.

Brian Jones:

Totally agree. Yeah, it seems identity of an individual is most useful in situations where there's an ownership component to something, right? I need to get into my car, my car needs to not let other people drive it, my house needs not let other people in, my bank needs not give other people my money. Right, those types of identities need to be explicit and unique, right? Non fungible, whereas people who are interested in guitars, you're all fungible. I don't care who you are right, if I'm trying to sell guitars and you're all interested in guitars, I don't care to seize my message.

Adam Kerpelman:

Right. So, that gets us to the thing that we talk about in the ID space sometimes. That's the whole idea of something like cookie lists and why this is even a fraught conversation is because if you don't fully understand how some of these technology pieces work, it makes sense that you would hear the word tracking and you would think, oh, that's weird, we need to make some laws against that. Meanwhile, you can't turn off some subsets of it or it makes advertising go away. All we're actually trying to solve is some sort of ID question. And then ultimately say, okay, here's the cutoff and then pass that, the law says, no more right? And it's a back and forth of, okay, there's cookies, here's the thing we built with cookies. Are we trying to pass a law? Again, it just feels like identity lives right at the seam of that anxiety for people and the idea of anonymizing it, maybe people that don't hang out on the web as much as we do, aren't familiar with the idea that, that's actually technologically possible.

Brian Jones:

Yeah, it's a pretty complex concept. I think [crosstalk 00:15:19]

Adam Kerpelman:

Is it an encryption under question? Or I mean, again, there's a lot of layers to attack, right? It's the thing that we need to explain now, encryption.

Brian Jones:

Well, it kind of comes down to, it's kind of like a semantic, it's the semantic presentation of this whole conversation, right? Because it's caught up in the idea of privacy and that word means something to people. And when you think privacy you think, I want to draw the shades on my house and to be private at home. I don't want you interrupting me. I don't want you to see what I'm watching on TV. I want to be able to go to the bathroom and not have someone watch me or take pictures of me doing weird things at home or normal things, I guess, although you tend not to worry about normal things, right? It's the weird things that you don't want people to see.

Brian Jones:

So I think the whole concept is kind of, it's distorted because of the language we choose to use, right? An anonymity, things can be anonymous, but still have your information attached. And that doesn't necessarily mean that people can't then reverse engineer stuff, right? Because I think one thing that's true about the digital age that we all know, but we're all collectively as a society, pretending like we're just uncovering, is that kind of anything can be figured out, right? If you have enough data, whatever you want to get out of it, you can figure it out. So we can anonymize all this marketing data but on some level you can also reverse engineer it and get back to individuals. But the use case, the need in market is generally one of aggregate analysis of populations and subpopulations. So just the term privacy attached to it is just, it means something different to everybody, right?

Brian Jones:

What does it mean that if you know that I drive a blue Subaru and I bought it four years ago, and I bought it used and I'll probably be in market for a new car in four years, and that I'm thinking about getting an electric vehicle. What does that mean for me in terms of privacy? Do I care about that? Does that matter? How does it affect me? Am I going to be tricked? Or is someone going to steal something from me? Are they going to hurt me in some way? Or are they going to help me in some way? It's a pretty complex conversation actually, and I think just because it all becomes personal very quickly, it's a hard conversation to have because people get caught up in the bigger picture of no, no, no, no, no. I want everything to be private, leave me alone. So it's a very complex space.

Adam Kerpelman:

The reality though, is as much as people talk about that and they talk about legislation, every generation I feel is progressively stunned by how much the next generation is willing to give up that they consider privacy-

Brian Jones:

Oh, 100%.

Adam Kerpelman:

... in exchange for convenience and, or money.

Brian Jones:

Even with N generation, right? My wife's horribly concerned with us not shredding all our mail because it has our address on it. I'm like, I don't care. Do you know how many places our address exists? Shredding our mail is the last useful thing to do.

Adam Kerpelman:

Right.

Brian Jones:

I totally get the concern, right, it's information that people could use it in bad ways. Right, but how is it going to get used in a bad way?

Adam Kerpelman:

Right. Well, so to bring it back to the Data-Driven piece, the reality of this back and forth of data that we're talking about here is this interplay between, people want to feel safe in the space they're going to and spending time. And the fact that to provide that experience, we need to know some subset of what's going on. And we've talked about before on this podcast, sure there's some sort of utopian tax that say, let's get rid of marketing. But we wouldn't be getting rid of marketing, we would just be calling it discovery and having it live inside a platform like Spotify, it would still be, I need to explain to you, here's a new thing you can consume for the good of my company.

Brian Jones:

Right.

Adam Kerpelman:

Please consume it. Right, that's not going anywhere. It's just the question of what are the levers and to what percentage are they allocated so that we can continue to show people what they want to see. And what that's about is once you have enough data streams hooked up, there's a possible future where I just see things I want all the time. And I'm always stoked about the things that I learn about. It's a movie I want to see. It's an album they know I'll like, and that's what we get, right?

Brian Jones:

Well, what's neat about Spotify, is that they actually have built in a way, the perfect system for selling music, right? They have access to all music of all time. They have everything on there and they don't care that they have it all on there.

Adam Kerpelman:

Yeah. [crosstalk 00:20:10] and everything you've listen to, and how many times, since you signed up.

Brian Jones:

What I want for purchases, what I would love is a platform where I can go and get all the information about the things I'm trying to buy and get a true view of the market. What are all of the... like for instance, I just bought some new speakers. I'm an audio file, I was getting rid of an old set of speakers, I moved to a new brand. It's so hard to find all the options out there. I want to go somewhere and see all 500 options. I want to learn about them. I want true unadultered reviews of them. [crosstalk 00:20:42] I want the real information.

Adam Kerpelman:

Reviews so good they were bought by New York Times.

Brian Jones:

The Wirecutter is an interesting case because it's the only place I've ever found online, where they do such a good job with the reviews that I don't need to do the reviews anymore. Them and DPReview, which was bought by Amazon for digital cameras, but Wirecutter satisfies general purchase reviews. Totally off topic and now I'm lost.

Adam Kerpelman:

Sorry.

Brian Jones:

But both of those are great websites.

Adam Kerpelman:

And that's part of even the marketing conundrum in this space where frequently, you at the edge of Data-Driven marketing, you end up saying, actually we don't want to push our message at this time because it's better to have somebody continue to be connected with you in terms of you providing them with an understanding of their craft for example. Than it is to say, now sign up for our product. I mean, we just own it, there's a reason we do a podcast where we talk about nebulous topics like this. I mean, it might help us in the long run, but the real point is to pull together people that think like this, who yeah, maybe they use their tool. And look, it's a marketing tactic, it is. It just looks a lot different than what we're used to and it doesn't work unless some level of ID.

Brian Jones:

Well, the differences is, and this is where I was trying to go with Spotify but I spiraled, Spotify provides value to me, right? They get to sell me music. And when I say sell, right, I'm paying for the subscription, but the artists make money when I listen to the music. So the artists, if I listen to their music, because it was suggested they make money. So they're selling me something through a service that I want and I want it so badly, I pay for it, right? Which is kind of the same as consumer reports or something. If you pay for consumer reports, they give really good reviews of things and you're paying for something that gives you value that then gets to sell you things.

Brian Jones:

And with a lot of advertising, you don't get that and in fact, it mostly is a pain, right? I don't want an ad in the middle of a movie, it annoys the hell out of me. So that's just a bad avenue for it. It's the best we have in that space, right? There's so much capital going into marketing. There's so many companies and businesses trying to sell things that there's money to squeeze ads into every single last little crevice of our world. But doesn't make it ideal right, there are better ways to do it. No one even thinks of Spotify as a marketing platform, but it 100% is, they're not suggesting music to you just to make you happy. It's also doing that, which is nice but at the same time, it's also selling things.

Adam Kerpelman:

They're a music broker.

Brian Jones:

They're a music broker.

Adam Kerpelman:

That's what they are, you are giving them a monthly stipend to divvy out to everyone that you listened to the appropriate fees for your having listened to their song.

Brian Jones:

And it's kind of weird that we all pay the same too, right? That's a feature of weird market dynamics that, that doesn't break up a differently.

Adam Kerpelman:

[crosstalk 00:23:54] scale, it's also a massive scale media business, so they can defray the cost of certain things off to another.

Brian Jones:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Adam Kerpelman:

The main point, and maybe in fact, this might impact here we are, might not be the same title of the episode. This is kind of the perfect segue into a series we got coming up with a guest, where we talk about cookies and the cookie lists and the cookie apocalypse. But the reason cookies exists is because we needed to hack together a way to provide this experience outside of the walled gardens that, sure Facebook has a version of this, YouTube has a version of this, but that's because you have a login. So they know they can associate at least at an account level, they can associate your activity and do discovery behaviors and blah, blah, blah.

Adam Kerpelman:

And if you're on YouTube, they're also using that as marketing information to target you with other things you might want that are not within the ecosystem. Cookies is an effort to do that. And so I think my sort of... it's not thought [inaudible 00:24:58] because it's what's happening, question is, is the solution to cookies to give up more information and just have a universal login that every paper in the world will accept. And you already kind of have it, it's your email address. That's what you use it to log into most places.

Brian Jones:

Yeah. It's amazing that there aren't more unified log-ins right? I both love and loathe when I go to a site and I can log in with Gmail or Facebook or LinkedIn. I loathe it because I don't trust them like I used to right, and I don't even know what that means. I don't even know what I don't trust anymore because I'm generally fairly trusting these systems, but it's so convenient. I'm so tired of signing up for things. I do it 10 times a day, as a heavily technology person. It's such a pain in the ass.

Adam Kerpelman:

So that's kind of why this gets us to this being a good lead into the cookie list because we're going to talk in depth with our guests and stuff about the cookie problem and kind of the evolution of this sort of stuff. And then multi-part series. But where it ends is what's being worked on things like UID 2.0 are just sort of versions of, look this tracking can't go away. We should build a standard and we'll get that standard to be okay with people, basically. Part of that is pushing on people to understand that they have to give up X, Y, and Z, if they want PDQ experience.

Brian Jones:

Well, that's part of the shift is that the internet figured out how to monetize itself by not telling everyone how it was monetizing itself [crosstalk 00:26:48] and now, everyone kind of figured out what was going on. And there's no particular reason, it's not the worst thing in the world, right? We run ads. They should've seen it, we should've all known what was going on [crosstalk 00:27:02] but it's sketchy because we didn't know, we weren't part of it. And so now we just need to reimagine it. So it is kind of like transparency, in a lot of things, communication solves the problem. It's all about telling people what's going on. It's about being truthful and honest and straightforward.

Adam Kerpelman:

Right. And some of those standards might not work as well as cookies do currently. But that speaks more, I think, to how far down the rabbit hole of using the hidden technology we got before, we were like, okay-

Brian Jones:

True.

Adam Kerpelman:

... this needs to be, that we need to fix this patchwork of sloppy ad hoc tracking processes we threw together over the last 15 years to try-

Brian Jones:

Totally.

Adam Kerpelman:

... to try to give the user the experience they deserve or whatever you want to call it. I don't know anything else to hit?

Brian Jones:

Just the, hey man, I need a nap.

Adam Kerpelman:

No, I think we mowed through that one pretty well. As you would say on a Zoom call, I guess if you're used to this being a 45 minute episode, you can have 15 minutes back in your day.

Brian Jones:

Oh, thanks.

Adam Kerpelman:

I hate that.

Brian Jones:

That 15 minutes between meetings will really allow me to get something productive done.

Adam Kerpelman:

Anyway. Thanks everybody for joining us this week for another episode of the Data-Driven Marketer sponsored by NetWise. I'm Adam.

Brian Jones:

I'm Brian, stay healthy out there, everybody.