A recently-filed lawsuit alleges that Google is continuing to profit by selling consumer information, despite the company’s continued claims that it does not sell personal data.
“Google promises its hundreds of millions of users that it ‘will never sell any personal information to third parties’ and ‘you get to decide how your information is used.’ These promises are false,” the lawsuit states. “In fact, Google monitors its consumers’ digital footprint, then makes billions of dollars by selling their sensitive personal information.”
The lawsuit, adds The Tampa Bay Times, cites Google’s terms of service, which say, “We don’t sell your personal information to anyone.”
“Google’s real-time bidding exchange is alleged to be the most extensive in the world,” said attorney Nanci Nishimura, partner at Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy. “Despite its promise that “we don’t sell your personal information to anyone,” Google makes billions of dollars by selling consumers’ sensitive personal information in real-time.”
According to the complaint, Google “continually and surreptitiously” sells consumer data using a “real-time bidding” system for digital advertising spots.
While legitimate advertisers use this data to place targeted ads to people they believe may be interested in their product, the lawsuit alleges that other, less scrupulous companies “[siphon] off” the so-called bidstream.
NBC-Bay Area notes that, even though only one bidder will win an auction, all of the participants can save, store, and make money off the information contained up for sale.
“Many participants do not place bids and only participate to conduct surveillance and collect ever more detailed data points about millions of Google’s consumers,” the lawsuit states.
Although Google claims that such bidstream data is anonymized, the lawsuits suggests that Google has a long-standing history of well-documented privacy violations.
In 2010, for instance, the Federal Trade Commission charged that Google “used deceptive tactics and violated its own privacy promises to consumers” by launching its now-defunct social network, Google Plus.
Google later settled with the FTC.
Years later, in 2019, Google paid an additional $170 million settle claims brought by the FTC and the New York Attorney General’s Office that it illegally collected children’s personal information off YouTube.
The company has also been held liable and fined tens of millions of Euros by courts in the European Union.
Nevertheless, Google continues to maintain that it protects and prioritizes the confidentiality of its users’ data.
“We never sell people’s personal information and we have strict policies specifically prohibiting personalized ads based on sensitive categories,” spokesman José Castañeda said in a statement.