The IAB has been dragged into the row over claims that the online ad industry is responsible for “systemic” breaches of GDPR following accusations that the trade body inadvertently sanctions the use of “intimate” consumer data for real-time ad auctions.
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.
The complainants argue that when users search on Google, personal information on their online behaviour is broadcast to multiple companies interested in targeting them with ads without users’ consent.
Now, fresh evidence filed with the national data protection authorities this week in the UK, Ireland and Poland details how sensitive the data in user profiles can be, including mental health, infertility, sexual orientation and religious beliefs.
As well as Google, the complaints target all adtech companies which broadcast online users’ personal data widely in real-time bid requests.
The complaint also criticises the IAB Tech Lab, the body that develops industry standards for online advertising. IAB’s list of categories includes one marked “incest/abuse support”, which the complainants said could enable ad auction companies to target and profile an Internet browser as an incest or abuse victim.
The complaint states the data is not necessary for effective advertising and is calling for it to be excluded from ad auctions. It calls on regulators to recognise the “systemic nature” of the breaches and step in to ensure industry-wide compliance with data protection laws.
Panoptykon Foundation president Katarzyna Szymielewicz, who filed the complaint in Poland, said: “Ad auction systems are obscure by design. Lack of transparency makes it impossible for users to exercise their rights under GDPR. There is no way to verify, correct or delete marketing categories that have been assigned to us, even though we are talking about our personal data.”
The IAB has yet to respond to the claims.
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