We started ContextCue by asking a simple question, "What if digital advertising didn't collect all that data?" This question has been our guiding light as we continue to grow, and it's a question that we believe more companies should ask themselves. Asking this question led us to one of our core beliefs—we must ensure ContextCue is private by design, from the ground up. But what does private by design mean?

The first thing we do to ensure that we respect our users privacy is by asking, what, if any, personally identifiable data are we interacting with? This is a pretty standard question to ask in the technology industry today. However, we then ask ourselves, do we really need to handle this data? In almost every case, the answer is a resounding "No," we don't need this data. Avoiding the collection of data is the only way to guarantee privacy. This is in contrast to other companies who try to collect as much information as possible, by default. Collecting this data also makes companies valuable targets for hackers. For any personal information that we do collect, we ensure that it is securely stored, and not retained for any longer than necessary.

Many companies are starting to offer limited, yet complex and confusing privacy settings in their services. We applaud these companies for providing tools so users can take control of how their information is used, however they contain dozens of different dark patterns users may not realize. For example, a company may use large, vibrant buttons that attract users into signing away their privacy, but then use small, hard-to-read text if a user wants to limit the data they share. These dark patterns are extremely misleading, and prevent many users from understanding their choices.

Ensuring that the entire service respects your privacy by default is especially important when working with a service that aggregates data. For example, in 2019 Facebook admitted to leaking around 1.5 million email address contacts. This was especially bad because even if your privacy settings were configured correctly, your email address could still be leaked if a different Facebook user had your email in their email contact list.

Although there are more data breaches than ever, there are also more privacy-first companies than ever before. DuckDuckGo is a great replacement for Google Search that doesn’t store your search history, nor does it try to track users across the internet. And switching your search engine isn’t the only way to improve your privacy online–SimpleAnalytics provides simple, effective analytics tools for websites without being creepy. Apple also puts a strong focus by trying to do as much data processing and machine learning on device as possible, minimizing the amount of data that could be leaked in a security breach. These are all great examples of companies that not only prioritized their users trust over data, but have proven that privacy is good for business.

Here at ContextCue, we are working hard to prove that privacy can co-exist with advertising on the internet. We aim to help businesses grow through advertising, as well as provide tools for publishers to monetize their content. Many people say that they don’t care about privacy; that they value other things more, like what the product does or how much revenue the company earns. But what if we didn’t need to make those tradeoffs? What if we could have both?

Publishers and advertisers are invited to join us on our mission to improve privacy and trust in digital advertising. If you’re not a publisher or advertiser, share our mission with your favorite sites and apps, or tweet about us @contextcue.