Real-time bidding (RTB) works behind the scenes on websites and apps. It tracks what you watch, whether private or sensitive, and it records where you go.
Every day, it broadcasts this data about you to a multitude of companies continuously, allowing them to profile you.
“RTB is the biggest data breach on record. It tracks and shares what people see online and their real-world locations 294 billion times in the US and 197 billion times in Europe every day,” the Irish watchdog said in its report.
The private data of European and American Internet users is then sent to companies around the world, including in Russia and China, with no way to control what is then done with the data.
“The RTB industry generated more than $117 billion in the United States and Europe in 2021,” said the ICCL.
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On average, a person in the United States has their online activity and location exposed 747 times per day by the RTB industry.
In Europe, RTB exposes people’s data 376 times a day.
Collectively, the ICCL has estimated that the online behavior and locations of American Internet users are tracked and shared 107 trillion times per year, while the data of Europeans is exposed 71 trillion times per year.
Still, the report says the figures presented for RTB emissions were a low estimate.
“The industry numbers we rely on do not include Facebook or Amazon RTB streams,” he added.
According to the report, Google allows 4,698 companies to receive RTB data about people in the United States, while Microsoft can send data to 1,647 companies.
“Google is RTB’s largest company. It tracks and shares what people in the US and Europe are doing online and where they are at scale,” the report notes.
The main concern is that ad tracking could expose personal data that can be used to identify women and people who are pregnant and/or seeking abortion services.
“Most ads on websites and apps are placed using RTB. Advertisers spend $100 billion a year on RTB in the US and Europe,” the report said.
Google and Microsoft had not yet reacted to the ICCL report.