Digital advertising industry accused of major data breach

Secretary of State warns of misleading business direct mail

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties is suing a branch of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and others over what it describes as “the world’s largest data breach”. The IAB Tech Lab, based in New York, develops digital ad industry standards.

By Zoe KleinmanTechnology reporter Published34 minutes agoSharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingimage copyrightGetty Images IAB members include Facebook, Google and Amazon.

The case brought by Johnny Ryan centres on the data shared between ad brokers and other firms while ad space is being auctioned as a site loads. It’s known as real-time bidding.

The IAB said it was the first it had heard of the claim, although the court papers are dated 18 May. “We are reviewing the allegations in conjunction with our legal advisers and will respond in due course, if appropriate,” said a spokeswoman. There is a debate about the volume of data gathered about people in order to target digital ads, although this form of revenue is what currently keeps most internet services free to use.

But Mr Ryan argues that most people using online services are not aware of the amount of data that is shared about them, and with whom. As a web page or app that carries advertising is loading, information is shared about the device it is loading on, some details about where that device is, and other information including previous websites visited and their subject matter. This data is used by brokers to sell the ad space that is on that page in seconds or less, targeting the person using the device – although the person is not named.

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