Google is being sued. Again. This is not news. What is news is why they are being sued.
Google says that they don’t sell your data. While that may be accurate, they do, according to a new lawsuit, give it away to anyone who wants it.
How does that work?
Google sells ads. While some of those ads are blind, meaning that the buyer does not know who it is being presented to, those ads don’t sell for much. My kids are fully grown. Showing me a diaper ad is not terribly useful to the diaper company. I am highly unlikely to buy any diapers any time soon.
Most ads are sold using Google’s real time bidding system. This bidding happens in a blink of an eye.
It works something like this.
You visit a web page. The site owner has a deal to buy ads from Google. While the page is loading, the site owner tells Google that it has a box that is so many inches by so many inches available.
They also tell Google everything they know about you. This includes everything the browser tells them like your system information and IP address and any other information the site owner has about you. Then Google adds information it knows about you based on other data they have collected from other sites you have visited and other data that they have bought.
So far, it would appear, they are not lying.
But they also have not sold any ads.
What happens next is this. Google provides all of this information to anyone who is bidding for ads at the moment. That entire collection of data is provided, free of charge, the lawsuit says, to all of the potential buyers.
In the blink of an eye, someone wins the bid and Google charges them and gives the ad to the website to display. This could be Facebook. Or your web site if you display ads.
But what happens to all that data that was sent to the losers?
According to the lawsuit, they get to keep it.
Some people bid on ads with the intention of NOT winning. All they want is your data. They offer to pay a penny knowing that they will never win. Maybe they have to shell out a few pennies if literally no one else bids.
After the bidding period (blink) is over, they can take that data, aggregate it and sell it. Or use it in some other way.
This is the crux of the lawsuit.
If there are a hundred bidders for that ad. Or a thousand – they all get to keep the data according to the plaintiffs.
You would think Google would care, but maybe, because they collect some much data every second, they don’t.
I guess we will see how this plays out in court. Credit: Law Street Media