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PAIR Up With First Party Data: Unlock Secure, Private And Scalable Targeting

We are pleased to introduce IAB Tech Lab PAIR, a solution built upon the foundations of Google Publisher Advertiser Identity Reconciliation (PAIR) protocol and IAB TL Privacy Enhancing Technology Working Group initiatives including Open Private Join and Activation (OPJA).

First-party audience data is gaining momentum and is among the most prized methods,  thanks to highly performant, privacy safe techniques where Advertisers and Publishers still retain full control of their data. 

Both publishers and advertisers have acquired authenticated and deterministic first-party data over the years, along with the required regulatory permissions for advertising use. Deploying this for activation of audiences offers better personalization, as well as accurate targeting.

Innovative solutions have emerged that use data clean rooms and encryption to enable privacy-safe matching of data between advertisers and publishers. The outputs from these solutions enable programmatic transactions while protecting the data and personal information of audience subjects.

IAB Tech Lab published OPJA in 2023 to standardize the process for private and secure first-party data matching and using the results in programmatic advertising. In October 2022, Google’s Display & Video 360 developed PAIR to enable the reconciliation of advertiser and publisher first-party data in a durable and secure way to enable advertisers to reach relevant audiences. Both solutions aim to enable publishers and advertisers to match their first-party audiences and then to use OpenRTB to activate them with the help of SSPs and DSPs. 

Google has contributed the PAIR protocol to IAB Tech Lab and industry for further development as an open industry standard. 

“The increased performance and privacy offered by IAB Tech Lab PAIR will raise the confidence of advertisers and publishers in using their first-party data sets. We’re excited that this transformative innovation will be made broadly available to all members of the ecosystem for the first time via the IAB Tech Lab.” – Shreya Mathur, Senior Product Manager at Google

At IAB Tech Lab, we believe that there should be one industry standard for solving the same problem. Having one industry standard is the foundation for consistent and scalable adoption and industry growth. 

Going forward, the Tech Lab standard for activating a common audience between two parties –namely an advertiser and a publisher, will be IAB Tech Lab PAIR. The Privacy and Addressability working group will oversee the standard and maintain IAB Tech Lab PAIR protocol and will support reference implementation libraries. 

“OPJA and PAIR share similar design goals, so it is great to see them finally align,” said Bosko Milekic, Cofounder and CEO, Optable. “With a single unified first-party audience matching and activation standard, IAB Tech Lab is paving the way toward broader industry adoption of privacy-enhancing technologies.”

“The integration of OPJA’s data clean room interoperability with PAIR will be a great step forward for the industry. We were able to agree on shared design goals very quickly”, said Andrew Knox, Product Manager, Privacy Technology at Decentriq. “This now has the potential to become the premier way to protect and use first party audiences. Having a single open and flexible protocol will make this activation method more efficient, both in the bid stream and while matching in the clean room.”

The core technologies deployed to achieve the goals have always been similar: they use encryption to protect the personal information of data subjects and use private set intersection to enable interoperable data clean room operations. However, the technical implementation differed enough to make them mutually incompatible – OPJA stores encrypted labels with the SSP while PAIR stores encrypted identifiers with the DSPs. IAB Tech Lab PAIR will be the only IAB standard moving forward and it will be governed by the shared design goals of OPJA and PAIR:

  • Design Goal 1: Security of Personally Identifiable Information. The solution protects the end user’s PII data throughout the operation using cryptographic protection. No participant in the data exchange (e.g., publisher or advertiser) can act alone to access or exfiltrate cleartext sensitive information. 
  • Design Goal 2: Privacy of User Identity. The solution prevents each participant from learning the identity of end users that are not part of their own contributed input data set.
  • Design Goal 3: Privacy of Audience Membership. The solution prevents each participant from learning which end users they contributed are members in the computed overlap. It should be difficult or impossible for the real-time bidding stack (e.g., SSP and DSP) from reverse engineering user identities in a particular audience.
  • Design Goal 4: Privacy of User Context. The solution limits or eliminates cross-learning between publishers, advertisers, and the real-time bidding stack. Information that was learned about about a user in one context can not be used in another

“PAIR and OPJA both represent the industry’s commitment to protecting first-party data using the latest privacy-enhancing technologies”, said Andrei Lapets, Vice President, Engineering and Applied Cryptography, Magnite. “By bringing together the best innovations and insights from the two standards, the IAB Tech Lab is creating another streamlined, broadly applicable solution that SSPs, DSPs, and data clean rooms can jointly leverage as the modern advertising technology toolkit evolves.

IAB Tech Lab PAIR will describe the data clean room processes and the privacy enhancing technologies (PETs) that enable a matching operation between two parties, as well as the supporting mechanisms for using the output of the operation to activate matched audiences in programmatic advertising.

We plan to release the IAB Tech Lab PAIR protocol soon and invite the industry to engage in the Rearc Addressability and Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PETs) Working Group to further develop the protocol as an open industry standard.


Shailley Singh
EVP Product & COO
IAB Tech Lab