Tuesday 22 October 2019

Irish privacy watchdog opens official probe into Google's advertising practices

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Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

The Irish Data Protection Commissioner is to open a statutory inquiry into Google over concerns that the tech giant may not be in compliance with GDPR privacy rules over personalised advertising.

It is the 17th statutory inquiry into tech multinational firms opened by Helen Dixon’s office since the advent of GDPR one year ago.

“Arising from the Data Protection Commission’s ongoing examination of data protection compliance in the area of personalised online advertising and a number of submissions to the Data Protection Commission, including those made by Dr Johnny Ryan of Brave, a statutory inquiry pursuant to section 110 of the Data Protection Act 2018 has been commenced in respect of Google Ireland Limited’s processing of personal data in the context of its online Ad Exchange,” said a spokesman for the Irish DPC.

“The purpose of the inquiry is to establish whether processing of personal data carried out at each stage of an advertising transaction is in compliance with the relevant provisions of the General Data Protection Regulation, including the lawful basis for processing, the principles of transparency and data minimisation, as well as Google’s retention practices.”

Under GDPR, Google can be fined up to €20m or a maximum of 4pc of annual revenue, amounting to billions of euro.

The probe was initiated after complaints by the Irishman Johnny Ryan who works for the UK web browser Brave.

“Surveillance capitalism is about to become obsolete,” said Dr Ryan. “The Irish Data Protection Commission’s action signals that now, nearly one year after the GDPR was introduced, a change is coming that goes beyond just Google. We need to reform online advertising to protect privacy and to protect advertisers and publishers from legal risk under the GDPR.”

Dr Ryan submitted a formal GDPR complaint to the Irish DPC in September of last year. Duplicate complaints were also submitted to the UK Information Commissioner by Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group and Dr Michael Veale of University College London.

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