Google alleged to use secret webpages to feed personal data to advertisers

Brave browser team says Google is using hidden pages to circumvent GDPR

Brave browser catches Google tracking users with hidden web pages

The accusation comes from the privacy-focused fearless web browser which says it has, "uncovered what appears to be a GDPR workaround that circumvents Google's own publicly stated GDPR data safeguards".

John Ryan, the chief policy officer of a private and secure browser known as fearless (disclosure: courageous is a partner of Reclaim The Net) had discovered Google's hidden scheme while trying to monitor how his personal data was traded in the United States tech giant's advertising exchange business known as Authorized Buyers.

Google told the Financial Times that it had not seen the information from courageous and denied that it shared personal data to advertisers without user content.

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The claim was made in the filing by Johnny Ryan, Brave's chief policy officer. The practice is said to be against Google's own ad buying rules.

The evidence submitted to the Irish regulator accused Google of "exploiting personal data without sufficient control or concern over data protection".

The Brave team says when a user visits a site that runs behavioral ads, a large amount of user data is collected by the code for the ad slots and broadcasts it back to the advertising platform. One can not know what these companies then did with it, because Google loses control over my data once it was sent. While attempting to keep track of how Google traded user data on their advertising exchange - Authorised Buyers - Ryan discovered he had been given an identifying tracker from Google. According to Ryan's findings, Google had attached an identifying tracker against his identity; this tracker was further fed to third-party companies that logged onto a hidden webpage which had no content but contained a unique address linking it to Ryan's browsing activities.

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Ryan didn't stop there and commissioned ad tech analyst Zach Edwards to try and reproduce the results. It revealed the "Push Pages" mechanism, through which Google "invites companies to share profile identifiers about a person when they load a website". They recruited "hundreds of people" to test Google over one month. In all cases, the identifier - the tracker - was found to be shared by multiple advertising firms to enhance their targeting abilities.

The company also pointed us to some articles on Cookie Syncing (aka Cookie Matching), a process which many companies, including Google use, to share data between ad networks that each have their own tracking IDs.

"We do not serve personalized ads or send bid requests to bidders without user consent", wrote a Google spokesperson in an email to Search Insider.

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