Consent Frameworks at Scale

15th September 2020

In the digital ad world, the crucial importance of managing user consent has come to the forefront over the last several years, thanks to a wave of regulation and a broader awakening among consumers about how they are or aren’t being tracked online.

At a time when publishers are worried about alienating people with cumbersome registration demands and marketers are worried about inviting fines from the feds or targeting consumers who haven’t said yes to targeting – managing consent isn’t just hard – it’s scary.

Put another way – the average person doesn’t want to be bothered with this stuff and is naturally defensive. And if you screw it up, you can screw up your own business in more ways than one. So consent warrants caution.

If you talk to people in the industry about this issue, one thing they are certain of: managing consent requires direct consumer outreach, and surely can’t be managed at scale. It’s way too risky.

From our experience, we think that there are overlooked ways of managing consent at scale. In fact, based on where things are heading, we think that consent management can be implemented in a scalable fashion that actually benefits wary consumers in this new privacy-first world.

At Neutronian, we get an intimate look at many types of data – and one data company we’ve recently reviewed is ShareThis. You may know ShareThis from its omnipresent plug-ins on content sites which allow users to share, follow or react to news articles and videos with a few quick clicks. This plug-in’s ubiquity means that ShareThis is everywhere, and sees quite a bit of what happens on the open web including clicks, searches and engagement. That means ShareThis has access to enviable insights. Yet that access could theoretically be a privacy minefield given the sheer scale of their publisher network.

But from what we’ve seen, ShareThis employs several impressive practices when it comes to managing consumer consent at scale across 3 million domains.

  • For example, in Europe ShareThis’ publisher partners are required to implement a GDPR compliant consent mechanism. If these publishers receive data from EU users without a consent mechanism being used, ShareThis does not use it.
  • Also very importantly, ShareThis offers a free, custom built consent management platform for any publisher that wishes to use it in conjunction with their service. This level of investment is an important step towards enabling publishers to achieve compliance.
  • Consumers are also able to see what information is being shared with ShareThis and can easily opt out at will directly on their website (

Thus far, this level of consent commitment at this scale of data sources stands out. Now to be sure, the regulatory environment is fast-changing and new developments such as the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) are on the horizon so Neutronian will continue to assess ShareThis’s products and processes as things evolve. But based on what we’ve seen so far, maybe consent does not have to be so scary and for some companies, it may even present an opportunity to create a differentiated competitive advantage.

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