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A blow for adtech – UK commissioner says real-time bidding is mostly illegal

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The latest update report from the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office revealed that the advertising industry is illegally profiling internet users. The report addresses several concerns about the RTB (real-time bidding) advertising process which is widely followed by several companies. The report could turn out to be a huge blow to data-driven advertisements.

“The adtech industry appears immature in its understanding of data protection requirements. Whilst the automated delivery of ad impressions is here to stay, we have general, systemic concerns around the level of compliance of RTB,” said the report.

Several complaints were lodged against the RTB system and accusing it of violating the data protection laws such as the GDPR. The ICO’s update report finally concluded that tracking and profiling users through invasive technologies such as cookies breach the privacy laws of both the UK and the EU.

The conclusion on RTB in the update report can be found on page 23, here. On the whole, the report says that there isn’t a clear and well-communicated method of gaining consent from users before storing their data.

On top of that, it was also declared that the adtech companies have failed to carry out their due diligence on RTB through practices such as data protection impact assessments (DPIAs).

The ICO’s report also highlighted the fact that most pop-ups seeking content from users tend to be confusing and fail at clearly communicating on what data would be kept. One more alarming detail is the fact that the adtech maintains an extremely detailed profile on people and it shares such profiles routinely to hundreds of other adtech companies whenever there’s a programmatic ad transaction.

“Individuals have no guarantees about the security of their personal data within the ecosystem,” read the report.

Despite having clear reasons, as mentioned in the report against the adtech’s practices and implementation of the RTB system, the ICO hasn’t yet declared a regulatory action against these adtech companies. On the contrary, it says that it will investigate further and collect more evidence with regard to such privacy violations committed by the adtech.

The update report also subtly signals the adtech companies to change their practices before it’s too late and they have to face consquences. It’s also to be noted that ICO is the same organization that previously said that a regulatory smackdown will ensure adequate privacy measures and practices.

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