Google, one of few businesses to have already received a high-level fine of €50 million from the French Privacy Regulator, has now been accused by rival search engine Brave of “exploiting personal data without sufficient control or concern over data protection.”
 
Evidence uncovered by Brave’s chief policy officer, Johnny Ryan, has been submitted to the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, which oversees Google in Europe, for investigation.
 
This investigation is occurring against the backdrop of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) publishing an update that has essentially given the Adtech industry six months to clean up its act when dealing with data used in real-time bidding; in the ICO’s opinion the sharing of personal data for this practice is “disproportionate, intrusive and unfair”, with users often unaware it’s happening.
 
The worry is that much of the Adtech industry uses “special category data”, such as health data and sexual preferences, which are seen as particularly sensitive, to help create valuable insight for the advertising sector, without the public truly understanding what their data is being used for.
 
In Google’s case, it is being accused of allowing Adtech businesses to share sensitive data from more than 8.4 million websites using what’s described as a “GDPR workaround” as well as ignoring self-imposed data safeguards and leaking user data through a real-time bidding platform.
 
The case, brought by Brave, will revolve around the idea of the privacy trade-off and control. Will users care about the way their data is being used and would they act differently if they knew the extent of its usage? Previous court cases have ruled internet users see the use of their data as an “annoyance”, but this isn’t enough to make a claim.
 
However, this won’t necessarily stop Google being fined by the Irish Data Protection Commission. The more cases like this we see like this, where companies like Google are disobeying or finding loopholes in the rules, the more likely we are to eventually see a ban of all non-consensual data sharing in the Adtech market.
 
In the meantime, advertisers and companies who operate data collection and shopping practices must plan for the possibility of major overhauls to non-consensual data sharing.