Privacy expert Raashee Gupta Erry educated the FTC on advertising

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In 2020, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission put out a call for advertising experts to advise the regulatory body on advertising and privacy. Raashee Gupta Erry, then a director at GroupM’s Essence, answered that call.

Gupta Erry initially took an interest in the privacy side of the ad industry in 2018 when working with clients to prepare for Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation privacy law. Joining the FTC offered an opportunity for her to get a U.S. perspective on privacy regulation from the inside — and for the government regulator to get a peek under the hood of the ad industry from an insider whose experienced spanned brand side at Volkswagen and Samsung, agency side at Essence and Digitas and ad tech side at Neustar.

“The FTC wanted to have somebody from the industry who understands all the sides of the ecosystem, who understands how the players operate, what are the sort of systems [and] processes [and] workflows. So it was an opportunity for me to help them, educate them and strengthen their work as well as learn about the privacy world,” Gupta Erry said on the latest Digiday Podcast episode.

Gupta Erry’s initial task at the FTC was mapping out the mechanics of the advertising ecosystem. Eventually her remit broadened to involve her in the organization’s investigation and enforcement efforts that related to advertising and privacy. “[I] got to dig into some of the topics that we all in the industry grapple with, like [Google’s] Privacy Sandbox or [Apple’s anti-tracking feature] ATT, algorithmic harm, AI bias,” she said.

Having left the FTC last fall, she is now back to working with advertising companies on their privacy practices through her consultancy Uplevel Digital. And given the flurry of privacy laws taking effect in the U.S. this year, there’s no shortage of work that companies need to do to keep in compliance, especially as enforcement efforts by regulators including the FTC ramp up.

“We’re looking at 11 or 12 [state-level privacy laws] at this point. So as more of them come into place, there’s going to be more regulators, state regulators, looking at these companies,” said Gupta Erry.

Here are a few highlights from the conversation, which have been edited for length and clarity.

Her first job at the FTC

My first engagement was designing a training program for the FTC staff about the advertising ecosystem — all these DSPs, DMPs, CDPs — how all these players work together, what are advertisers doing, what are agencies doing, what are analytics partners doing. A very 30,000-foot view of how the industry works.

Her broadened scope of work

Very quickly, I started to get more involved in various other matters of the FTC. So investigations and enforcement, I touched on a few of those. Policy work when it comes to rule-makings and workshops that FTC holds. Market research, where they are able to do research on a set of companies on a certain topic. And then doing a lot of trends, like leadership briefings, tech sprints.

The FTC’s latest areas of interest

Most recently there is a lot of scrutiny around technology and marketing practices that cause data abuse. For example, [tracking] pixels. So use of pixels and the impact of using pixels in terms of data leakage, in terms of data sharing. That has applications to children’s data, so children’s privacy. It has application into health data, so it relates to health companies. There are dark pattern issues, which are prevalent. That could just be consumer dark patterns [or] could be children-focused dark patterns.

The FTC’s latest areas of enforcement

There’s a lot of activity that is happening now from the FTC. If you go back a year and a half, they have a lot of enforcement actions going after healthcare companies who are irresponsible with people’s sensitive health information, like GoodRx, BetterHelp, Premom. Then you have some of the children’s privacy cases like Epic Games, Microsoft Xbox, Amazon Alexa, Edmodo, Facebook’s order is being sort of revisited again. And then dark patterns, Publishers Clearing House is a more recent case.

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