New evidence submitted to the Irish data regulator revealed that the tech giant Google was using hidden web pages to feed personal data of users to the advertisers secretly. It is reported that Google may be potentially violating several EU privacy regulations that demand transparency and consent.
The evidence submitted to the Irish regulator accused Google of “exploiting personal data without sufficient control or concern over data protection.”
John Ryan, the chief policy officer of a private and secure browser known as Brave (disclosure: Brave is a partner of Reclaim The Net) had discovered Google’s hidden scheme while trying to monitor how his personal data was traded in the US tech giant’s advertising exchange business known as Authorized Buyers.
Previously known as DoubleClick, Authorized Buyers is currently the world’s largest auction house for real-time advertising. According to Ryan’s findings, Google had attached an identifying tracker against his identity; this tracker was further fed to third-party companies that logged onto a hidden webpage which had no content but contained a unique address linking it to Ryan’s browsing activities.
The aforementioned identifying tracker is based on the location of the user and the time of browsing. Advertising companies could go to great lengths of detail with the tracker and match a user’s browsing activities with companies to provide a more personalized advertising experience for the companies.
“This practice is hidden in two ways: the most basic way is that Google creates a page that the user never sees, it’s blank, has no content, but allows . . . third parties to snoop on the user and the user is none the wiser. I had no idea this was happening. If I consulted my browser log,
I wouldn’t have had an idea either,” said Ryan.
Based on the complaint and the report submitted by Ryan, the Irish data regulator overseeing Google’s European business is investigating the company to find out whether it uses sensitive data such as the race, political leaning, and health for targeted advertising.
Experts say that Google could gain a significant advantage in the realm of advertising auctions if it can obtain the political references of its users.
A spokesperson from Google said that they hadn’t gone through the details submitted by Ryan, but that the company was cooperating with the officials in the UK and Ireland. The spokesperson also added that Google does not “serve personalized ads or send bid requests to bidders without user consent.”