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A New Chapter for DigiTrust

By Jordan Mitchell

We’re pleased to announce that IAB Tech Lab has acquired the DigiTrust solution, is hiring the team, and will support increasing global adoption of the DigiTrust neutral ID service. Additionally, IAB Tech Lab will work to integrate DigiTrust capabilities with existing and emerging technology standards for digital advertising. This marks a new, exciting chapter for DigiTrust, while at the same time bringing the effort back to its roots.

Chapter 1 of the DigiTrust journey began in 2013 when I, Jordan Mitchell, was invited to serve on IAB’s Ad Tech Advisory Board, and in the first meeting suggested that a working group form to address “the future of the cookie”. Within weeks, the working group had three co-chairs (including myself) and over 50 companies involved in a process to evaluate requirements and potential solutions. In January 2014, IAB published our research within the white paper entitled The Future of the Cookie: Privacy and Tracking in a Post-Cookie World. It was fantastic work, which I remain quite proud of. However, IAB was not set up at the time to operate technology services.

So, in Chapter 2, twenty leading sell-side and buy-side platforms stepped up in 2014 to form and fund The Cookie Trust Working Group, Inc. (aka DigiTrust), and co-developed the technology service. It was to be modelled after the “cloud solution” that the IAB working group concluded best met the requirements of consumers, publishers, advertisers, and technology platforms. Given the ambition of the project, we focused on the path of least resistance — platforms to deploy the standardized cookie-based user token on behalf of their customers, and start using it among themselves in lieu of ID syncs. Despite our best intentions, the effort failed in early 2015 when we couldn’t synchronize deployment timing across a big enough group of members. The lesson? This was not a technology challenge, rather a cooperation challenge.

Chapter 3 started in early 2016 after a year-long hiatus. The benefits of ID standardization made too much sense to give up! With new support provided by SpotX, Quantcast, Index Exchange, and Rubicon Project, I restarted the volunteer-led effort and then focused full-time on DigiTrust in late 2016, announcing new publisher and platform members. With full-time leadership, DigiTrust’s momentum continued to build. In mid-2017 the industry started to see proprietary ID consortiums emerge, while the first few DigiTrust deployments launched and achieved critical mass. With global audience coverage, and publisher membership rapidly approaching the scale of platform membership, it was time to focus on governance — upholding the neutral ID, namespace, and data collection policies responsible for DigiTrust’s success.

Today marks Chapter 4 for DigiTrust, and brings us back to our roots. IAB Tech Lab is an independent, non-profit entity that works across worldwide IAB organizations and their members, along with several other partner organizations, providing standards, software, and services to drive growth of an effective and sustainable global digital media ecosystem. Through this acquisition, DigiTrust has the resources and support to drive further global adoption and member value, while at the same time ensuring unbiased, neutral, and responsible governance.

The technical and cooperation challenges we face as an industry are far from over. It seems in this fascinating digital marketing industry of ours, the only constant is change. The point of standards is to form a common layer upon which we can accelerate innovation, and therefore have more products and features to choose from. However, cooperation is necessary for standardization, and a trusted structure is critical to both. Just as the IAB structure was responsible for the founding of DigiTrust back in 2014, the IAB Tech Lab structure will facilitate a new chapter of member value, and we will embrace each new challenge as a new opportunity. Thank you for your support!


Jordan Mitchell, SVP, Membership and Operations, IAB Tech Lab