Privacy campaigners are ratcheting up their war against online behavioural advertising platforms, which they claim are in breach of GDPR, with Berlin-based campaign group Liberties rifling off complaints with data protection authorities across Europe.
The complaints have been lodged in the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, the Netherlands, Poland and Slovenia. They claim that real-time bidding systems, and Google’s Authorised Buyers programme in particular, go against GDPR rules by failing to obtain users’ informed consent.
Launching the group’s #StopSpyingOnUs campaign, Liberties legal expert Eva Simon said: “We all know that the online advertising ecosystem relies heavily on our personal data. We all know that we get free content and free services online that are in fact far from free. We are paying for it with our most precious asset: our personal information.
“This includes our browsing history, our location, our sexual orientation, our religion and our online identity. There have been cases where our personal information, political views and voting preferences were leaked or sold, like the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
“Facebook from time to time seems to create shaky categories, such as ‘Jew haters’, and offers these target groups to advertisers. Real-time bidding is just as scary.”
The action is intended as a wake-up call to national regulators and the European Data Protection Board, with Liberties arguing that a joint action would be “the most effective way” to force change in the online ad industry.
Last week, the Irish privacy regulator confirmed it had launched a statutory inquiry into whether Google’s real-time bidding systems are in breach of GDPR. Official complaints – on behalf of tech start-up Brave, the Open Rights Group and University College London – were lodged in September last year with the aim of triggering an EU-wide investigation.
However, Simon added: “Our data is broadcast to thousands of companies across the world. GDPR is in effect, but has yet to be truly enforced.
“We would like to empower everyone to do something against data broadcasting and potential data leaking. You, whose data has been shared and broadcast, can file the same complaint with your national data protection office as the human rights and digital rights organisations filed. Together, we make our voice stronger.”
The group does not take issue with brand owners which make use of real-time bidding, Liberties advocacy officer Orsolya Reich insisted, but with the companies which offer the service as well as those who set industry standards. She said: “We want them to comply with the laws, which at present, as far as we can tell, they aren’t doing.”
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