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IAB Tech Lab releases final Privacy Sandbox Fit Analysis

Published: June 27, 2024

In August 2023, IAB Tech Lab assembled a group of senior leaders, predominantly individuals with extensive experience in product, engineering, data science, and operations roles in digital media. These leaders, many of whom have been in the industry for over a decade and some of whom were founders of the original OpenRTB specification, represented 65 companies. Their task was identifying foundational digital advertising use cases and evaluating Chrome Privacy Sandbox APIs to determine their feasibility within a Protected Audience auction. This is the Privacy Sandbox Task Force.

The Task Force had three goals:

  • To give the ad tech industry a frame of reference against how things work today
  • Create a call to action for the industry to start testing
  • Provide the Google Chrome Sandbox team with feedback on key product and operational challenges with the Protected Audience API (PAAPI)

The Task Force undertook a meticulous process to identify and evaluate 44 critical advertising use cases. This involved a requirements gathering process exercise, for example, “As a publisher, I need to…” or “As a media buyer, I need to…”, followed by hundreds of hours spent delving into Sandbox documentation and writing up how an implementer would go about achieving the use case’s objective. The result of this comprehensive evaluation was a 106-page report, released to the industry for Public Comment on February 6, 2024. 

The Privacy Sandbox Assessment, while primarily an educational resource, also served as a platform for the industry to voice its concerns. The Task Force identified serious issues with the proposed Protected Audience APIs, which garnered media attention and a significant amount of feedback. By mid-March, the Task Force had carefully read and reviewed each of the hundreds of comments received. Additionally, Chrome Sandbox Product and Engineering team members were invited to engage in a robust discussion with the digital media industry.

The evaluation period was focused on identifying items that were either incorrect from a technical standpoint or didn’t consider existing APIs in their initial approach. As a result, some updates were made to the final draft, which is being released today. A table summarizing the changes can be found on page 9 of the final analysis, and a fully detailed change log is available here. Additional information about the changes made to a given use case can be found in the “Update Comments” section below the associated Use Case. 

The Task Force removed two use cases pertaining to Second Price Auctions as they didn’t feel there was enough adoption to warrant inclusion in the final report. One use case, “Multi-Touch Attribution” was fully reevaluated using an API that was not considered in the original analysis and received an upgraded designation (from Not Supported to Impractical) as a result. Two use cases received updated supported designations: “Exclusion Targeting” went from Not Supported to Degraded (a two-step improvement), and “Publisher Revenue and Accrual Validation” was downgraded from Temporarily Supported to Not Supported. Five other use cases (Create and Modify an Audience Across Domains, Target a  Single Campaign to My Online Audience, Invalid Traffic, Bid Loss Reporting, and Managing Infrastructure Costs) had slight changes to the text of the analysis; no descriptions were changed. Two use cases (Bid Using a Deal ID and Receive a No Bid Response from a DSP) were not updated but were deemed nuanced enough to merit further discussion as part of an ongoing feature request workstream. (For more information on how those designations were assigned, see page 19 of the Use Case Analysis.) 

Due to the sheer volume of comments, technical depth, complexity of PAAPI and the digital advertising ecosystem requirements, it took the Task Force two months of weekly meetings to finalize and come to a consensus. This has culminated in today’s final release of the Privacy Sandbox Use Case Analysis. The Task Force is now focused on engaging with the Sandbox product and engineering teams to create a list of  feature requests that improve Privacy Sandbox’s advertising utility and support publisher monetization. A list of prioritized feature requests will be published in Q3 2024.

The Task Force’s concerns with the Privacy Sandbox remain unchanged. We maintain that it falls well short of what is needed to support a robust open web by balancing advertising utility for brands against media companies’ ability to maximize revenues. In its current form, the Privacy Sandbox will restrict the digital media industry’s ability to deliver relevant, effective advertising, placing smaller media companies and brands at significant risk. The lack of functionality will throttle their ability to compete, ultimately impacting the industry’s growth.

Tech Lab would like to extend our sincere thanks to all members of the Task Force who volunteered their time and extensive expertise on this project and continue to do so.

Hillary Slattery headshot

Hillary Slattery
Sr. Director, Programmatic, Product Management