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The Power of Data Clean Rooms

22 Aug 2023

By Jack Lindberg, The Mars Agency

Data clean rooms are a powerful tool that lets advertisers and retailers safely and effectively leverage their respective data assets for mutual benefit. They provide a secure environment for collaboration while ensuring strict adherence to privacy policies and regulations.

Building a best-in-class data clean room requires a careful selection of privacy-enhancing technologies and robust control mechanisms to ensure that all the necessary privacy and security measures take place.

Retail media networks are achieving varying degrees of success and technical refinement as they actively construct their own data clean rooms. One standout in this domain is the Amazon Marketing Cloud (AMC), which serves as Amazon Advertising’s data clean room. Leveraging the strength of AWS, AMC boasts a formidable architecture and capabilities.

Amazon’s distinction in this arena arises from its unique approach: Not only do they host the clean room, they also supply the data that’s used within it.

Drilling down, a data clean room (DCR) is a secure collaboration environment that allows multiple participants to leverage data assets for specific, mutually agreed-upon uses while otherwise applying strict limitations on accessing the data. In other words, it’s a space where raw or plain-text data can’t be observed or learned by any participant or DCR provider unless specifically agreed upon by the participants. This ensures that the parties retain full control over their own data.

The benefits are many. DCRs have emerged as a critical solution to facilitate safe collaboration between advertisers, media owners, technology platforms and data providers, as well as to enable audience matching for various marketing activities. They can be purpose-limited for a particular use case, allowing the development of new and effective strategies for advertisers to connect with shoppers.

DCRs also help organizations comply with legislative or self-determined privacy policies and enable media owners to maximize the value of their audiences in a post-cookie world, when traditional web and device identifiers are eliminated, and let businesses extract greater value and operationalize their first-party data without exposing or sharing proprietary information with other parties.

Best-in-Class Guidelines

A best-in-class DCR integrates technologies to minimize data movement, risk of personal data exposure, and misuse of data for the re-identification of individuals.

Moreover, a top-shelf DCR implements the principle of “least privilege,” which gives users access only to the specific data and resources required to complete a defined task and nothing more, by limiting the number, type and complexity of queries that can be performed, the time frame for data access, and the reuse of data sets, among other restrictions.

The first criterion advertisers should use for evaluating the suitability of a retail media network’s DCR is pretty straightforward: Do they provide access to one? While we expect this capability to ultimately become Table Stakes, not all networks offer one at this point.

Beyond that, here are some factors to consider:

Scale: Evaluate the DCR’s compute capabilities, including the number of datasets it can handle, their size, and their complexity. Also, consider the activation channels it supports and whether it allows for real-time activation. Assess the number of data contributors or other participants that can interact in the DCR.

Speed: Consider how quickly you can configure and set up a DCR solution. Look at how long it takes to grant permissions and join datasets, and how long computations take to run. Can these be dialed up and down dynamically? Also, consider how fast insights can be gleaned and executed, and whether the DCR supports datasets that are continuously changing, low-latency queries and data joining without the need for uploading.

Data Privacy: Ensure the DCR provides or supports one or more Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PETs) to execute computations that use technical protections to preserve individual privacy. Check if the DCR guarantees data privacy at rest, in transit, and in use by leveraging hardware-based confidential computing technologies. Also, verify if it provides or supports technologies that mathematically guarantee a required level of privacy.

Attack Defenses: Check if the DCR protects against privacy attacks that would allow unauthorized access to data.

About the Author
As Director of Media Insights & Analytics, Jack Lindberg leads The Mars Agency’s Amazon Marketing Cloud Analytics and Data Clean Room practices, using his passion and expertise in data and technology to accelerate commerce marketing success for our clients. Before joining the agency, he spent time building the advertising product at ecommerce solution provider Pacvue and his own Amazon acumen at an independent digital marketing agency.

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