Alphabet Inc. subsidiary Google’s privacy woes are set to increase after campaigners on Tuesday filed complaints to data-protection regulators in France, Germany and seven other European Union countries over the way it deals with data in online advertising.
The criticism mirrored a complaint filed by privacy-focused web browser Brave in Ireland and Britain, which triggered an investigation by the Irish watchdog last month.
At issue is real-time bidding, a server-to-server buying process which uses automated software to match millions of ad requests each second from online publishers with real-time bids from advertisers.
The online ad industry, a money spinner for Google, Facebook Inc. and other online platforms and advertisers, is expected to grow to US$273-billion this year according to research firm eMarketer.
“The real-time bidding advertising system may be broadcasting the personal data of users to hundreds or thousands of companies. This advertising method clearly breaches the EU’s data-protection regulation [GDPR],” said Eva Simon, a legal expert at campaigning group Liberties which is co-ordinating the complaints.
The EU enacted the landmark GDPR a year ago which includes fines up to 4 per cent of a company’s global turnover for violations.
“Real-time bidding is used [by] Google and many other digital advertising technology companies. It is time for them to #StopSpyingOnUs,” Liberties said.
The other seven EU countries where the complaints were filed are Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Italy and Slovenia.
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Shares in Google parent Alphabet closed 6 per cent down on Monday following reports that the U.S. Justice Department may investigate Google for hampering competition.