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Private Data of Europeans Shared 376 Times Daily in Ad Sales

That data can be practically anything based on the Interactive Advertising Bureau's (IAB) audience taxonomy.

 

Private information about every internet user is shared hundreds of times each day as companies bid for online advertising slots. A brand-new report by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), uncovered that the average European user's data is shared 376 times per day and the figure rises to 747 times daily for US-based users. 

Currently, ICCL is engaged in a legal battle with the digital ad industry and the Data Protection Commission against what it describes as an epic data breach, arguing that nobody has ever specifically consented to this practice. 

The data is shared between brokers acting on behalf of those wishing to place adverts, in real-time, as a web page loads in front of someone who is reading it. The brands in the adverts themselves are not involved. 

That data can be practically anything based on the Interactive Advertising Bureau's (IAB) audience taxonomy. The basics, of course, like age, sex, location, income, and the like are included, but it doesn't stop there. All sorts of websites fingerprint their visitors and those fingerprints can later be used to target ads on unrelated websites. 

It is used to secure the most relevant bidder for the advert space on the page. This all happens automatically, in a fraction of a second, and is a multimillion-dollar industry. Personally-identifying information is not included, but campaigners argue that the volume of the data is still a violation of privacy.  

"Every day the RTB [Real Time Bidding] industry tracks what you are looking at, no matter how private or sensitive, and it records where you go. This is the biggest data breach ever recorded. And it is repeated every day," said Dr. Johnny Ryan, senior fellow at the ICCL. 

According to the ICCL report, the source of the data was a Google feed covering a 30-day period. It is made available to the industry, but not the public. The data about US web users' habits are shared in advert sales processes 107 trillion times per year and European users' data is shared 71 billion times.  

"If the exhaust of our personal data could be seen in the same way pollution can, we'd be surrounded by an almost impenetrable haze that gets thicker the more we interact with our phones.,” tech reporter Parmy Olson, said. 
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