Brave, a privacy-focused web browser set up by Silicon Valley engineering guru Brendan Eich, filed privacy complaints in Britain and Ireland that could become a test case against search company Google and other digital advertising firms, Reuters reported on September 12.
Brave Hits Google With a Complaint
Brave, the ad-blocking browser developed by Mozilla co-founder Brendan Eich, has filed privacy complaints against Google in both Ireland and Britain. According to a September 12 report from Reuters, the privacy complaints could become a test case against search company Google and other digital advertising firms.
In the complaints, Brave alleged that Google’s practice of using “real-time bidding” to allow companies to purchase personalized ads exposes more user data, including sensitive information such as sexuality, ethnicity, and political views than that allowed under GDPR.
“There is a massive and systematic data breach at the heart of the behavioral advertising industry. Despite the two-year lead-in period before the GDPR, ad tech companies have failed to comply,” Brave’s chief policy officer Johnny Ryan told Reuters.
The complaint argues that whenever someone visits a website, intimate personal data that describe them and what they are doing online is broadcast to tens or hundreds of companies without their knowledge in order to auction and place ads.
The complaint, filed on September 12, says that this violates the GDPR’s requirement for personal data to be processed in a way that ensures they are properly secured.
Google, however, says that it has already implemented strong privacy protections after consulting with European regulators, and is committed to complying with the GDPR despite recent complaints.
If successful, Brave’s complaints could upend the data-driven online advertising model, which Reuters notes is expected to grow to $273 billion this year. Google could also face incredibly high fines is European regulators prove they were abusing their users’ privacy, as GDPR provides for regulators to levy fines as large as 4 percent of a company’s global revenue.
With Alphabet, Google’s parent company, recording just under $111 billion in revenue in 2017 alone, the fines could go well above $4 billion.
Brave Dumps Google Search in Other European Countries
Following Brave’s September 12 announcement, the company also decided to dump Google’s eponymous search engine. According to a September 13 CNET report, Google’s search engine will no longer be the default option in France and Germany and will be replaced with the privacy-focused Qwant.
Brave executives told CNET that they admired Qwant’s commitment to neither track users nor save search history. Unlike Google, the tool cannot tailor search results to individual users, which the company sees as a practice that not only violates user privacy but also serves to “confine the user to a filter bubble.”
Brave’s chief policy officer Johnny Ryan told CNET that the overriding commercial incentive for many ad tech companies is to share as much data with as many partners as possible. However, he also noted that there’s a “clean tech” movement in the making and that ad tech is ready to fight it.