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Google accused of secretly feeding personal data to advertisers

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 04/09/2019 Natasha Bernal
a close up of a logo: Google has been accused of secretly feeding personal data to advertisers © AFP Google has been accused of secretly feeding personal data to advertisers

Google is secretly sharing users' personal data with advertisers in breach of Europe's data protection laws, a competing search engine has claimed.

In new evidence submitted to Ireland's data watchdog, search engine Brave has claimed that Google is allowing ad-tech companies to compile and share personal information from users on over 8.4 million websites. 

Brace said that this action amounts to a "GDPR workaround" that circumvents Google’s own publicly stated data safeguards.

Gallery: A financial hacker reveals the simple mistakes we make online (lovemoney)

The Irish Data Protection Commissioner, which is in charge of policing Google in Europe, is currently in the midst of a statutory inquiry into Google's real time bidding advertising offering, following claims that it leaked the online habits of billions of users. 

These claims are also being investigated in a similar probe from the UK's Information Commissioner, launched earlier this year. 

Dr Johnny Ryan, chief policy and industry relations officer at Brave, has claimed that his personal data was shared with an unknown number of companies through using Google's search engine.

Dr Ryan said that Google allowed advertisers to combine information about him through hidden "push" pages, which are not visible to web users and could lead to them more easily identifying people online.

Cyber Security and Digital Data Protection Concept. Icon graphic interface showing secure firewall technology for online data access defense against hacker, virus and insecure information for privacy. Cyber Security and Digital Data Protection Concept. Icon graphic interface showing secure firewall technology for online data access defense against hacker, virus and insecure information for privacy. "This constant leaking of personal data, that seems to be happening constantly, needs to be urgently addressed by regulators," he told the Telegraph.

He said that the data compiled by users can then be shared by companies without Google's knowledge, allowing them to more easily build and keep virtual profiles of Google's users without their consent.

Ravi Naik, a data rights solicitor who is acting for Dr Ryan and Brave, labelled real-time bidding in its current form "toxic".

"The speed and scale of the broadcast is incapable of complying with the GDPR’s security principle”, he said.

A Google spokesperson said: “We do not serve personalised ads or send bid requests to bidders without user consent. The Irish DPC - as Google's lead DPA - and the UK ICO are already looking into real time bidding in order to assess its compliance with GDPR. We welcome that work and are co-operating in full."

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