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Robin Berjon & Ido Sivan-Sevilla
Robin Berjon & Ido Sivan-Sevilla

New York Times | Cornell Tech

AdTech & Our Privacy – Dark present, brighter future?


This joint session is about the digital advertising ecosystem: we highlight some of its disturbing practices against users’ privacy, explain the puzzle of lack of GDPR enforcement over its clear data protection violations, provide a glimpse on how a major publisher with a significant ad operation, The New York Times, has been trying to safeguard the privacy of its readers without forgoing revenue, and conclude by looking ahead at the current conversations in the web standards community on how to build an ad ecosystem without ubiquitous tracking.

First, a context-sensitive empirical study on persistent identification in popular websites will be presented. Then, the consistent data protection enforcement gap in the EU will be discussed, showing how in addition to resources and expertise, it is the enforcement styles of data protection authorities that determine the impact of EU’s promising data protection law. We will then move to discuss what is happening at The New York Times from a data governance perspective and how this major publisher currently addresses the privacy challenges of digital advertising. Finally, we will provide a forward-looking overview of what’s next in the web standards community, and how some of the privacy problems discussed earlier are addressed bottom-up, by private governance initiatives, that might determine a brighter future for users online.


Robin Berjon runs data governance at The New York Times, where he focuses on figuring out how to make privacy work and how to build a healthier tech and data ecosystem for publishers. Before that he worked on Web technology and open standards. He lives in Princeton with his family and a cranky old cat.

Ido Sivan-Sevilla is a public policy scholar and postdoctoral fellow at Cornell Tech’s Digital Life Initiative (DLI). He is interested in policy design and policy compliance of governance arrangements for our data capitalist society, focusing on cybersecurity, privacy, inequality, manipulation, and discrimination problems. In his postdoc projects, Ido utilizes his technological background to empirically investigate the online advertising industry, the FinTech lending infrastructure, the cyber insurance ecosystem, and data management practices by commercial organizations.

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