Consumer interests must be placed at the heart of any efforts to develop legislation around data privacy, a leading executive from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), the trade body, has argued.

Alex Propes, senior director/public policy and international at the IAB, discussed this topic at a “Trends from the Marketer’s Toolkit” event hosted by WARC in New York.

Digital privacy, he admitted is “relatively low” on the American public’s list of political priorities compared with issues like healthcare at present, but its importance is undoubtedly rising.

“I don't think most consumers are nearly as concerned as I think our industry is,” he said in describing the current situation. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: A privacy primer for 2020: The CCPA and beyond.)

“But it is growing in global concern. And being called [out] individually for bad practices is certainly not a place you want to be” as a brand.

Consumer-advocacy groups, Propes suggested, are likely to draw attention to companies that fall short of privacy rules, as laid out in regulations like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which goes into effect in 2020.

That can bring the threat of legal punishment, alongside reputational damage, as “brand reputation [is] at risk here,” Propes said. Any growing scepticism about corporate practices in this area may also hurt the industry as a whole, too.

“Ultimately, if consumers lose out in this conversation, we all lose. So that’s the longer-term view to take. That's the lens that we look through [at] these problems,” Propes added.

One demonstration of this idea in action is the “Privacy for America” effort that has seen the IAB ally with trade bodies like the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s).

More specifically, this initiative aims to work with Congress on developing federal-level data privacy and security rules for US consumers.

And it aims to “shift the burden” away from individuals who are today faced with a mass of inscrutable privacy policies, and instead develop common standards that can be applied by the wider industry.

The IAB’s favoured proposals for legislation, Propes further argued, often surpass existing or proposed regulations taking shape elsewhere in terms of their ambition.

A case in point: its proposals would “take data uses off the table altogether” – for instance, to determine eligibility for healthcare, employment or housing, as that has a “real impact on individuals,” Propes said.