Study reveals privacy threats of real-time auctions

Real-time tracking and ad auctions are rampant, online privacy is harder to maintain

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has published a detailed report on ad tracking and targeting. The study exposes real-time bidding (RTB) as one of today’s most significant threats to consumer privacy.

Data collected on RTB practices around the world shows that Google and other tech giants often base their ad auction systems and business practices on surveillance technology. Even though consumers may think they are aware of this approach, people’s data seems to be accessed and followed billions of times a day, with a scale and frequency that differs widely from what most companies would like to admit. .

The RTB is one of the main reasons for the demand for anonymity tools such as 4g LTE Proxy and other advanced privacy apps are constantly on the rise. Market experts consider this approach a serial data breach on a massive scale, as most mobile and smart technologies track consumers’ location and online behavior in real time billions of times a day.

In the United States alone, people are tracked nearly 300 billion times a day, while Europe comes in second with about 200 tracked instances per day. Therefore, this information is passed on to third parties and business partners unless individuals use state-of-the-art privacy solutions and dedicated ‘ethical’ search engines and apps. Recipients include companies around the world, including China and Russia, and what happens next is completely beyond the early RTB technology vendors.

The ICCL has obtained industry data from confidential sources, but this is only an estimate of what US and European users are subjected to in their online journey. States like Colorado and countries like the UK are most at risk, with 987 and 462 RTB broadcast instances per unit/person per day. Even the least vulnerable – such as Romania and the US District of Columbia – experience around 149 and 486 real-time privacy breaches per person/day.

The ICCL report stresses that these numbers are conservative estimates as they include primary data from Google and Microsoft. The former is the largest RTB player and sells access to collected data to nearly 5,000 companies in the US alone, while the latter sends it to 1,647 companies. Although adjusted to industry standards, it is crucial to realize that the final figures do not take into account possibly more aggressive RTB broadcast policies on the part of Meta (Facebook) and Amazon.

Is the European GDPR correctly applied?

Digital anonymity and security have been at the forefront of consumer concerns in mature markets for more than a decade, a industry research on privacy tools and standards revealed. RTB is a particularly sensitive topic in the European Union where the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has been in force since early 2018.

The survey shows that this awareness has reached almost similar levels in the United States and Australia, particularly after a series of high-profile data sharing and privacy breach scandals. European and North American users seek anonymity even at the cost of access to content, although both are achievable through a number of proxy and VPN tools.

Germans top the privacy awareness list with 44% proxy users, with Australians also just behind (43%). Consumers of all age brackets have shown increasing technical skills and related knowledge that have propelled privacy markets to unprecedented heights.

The biggest worry, at least in Europe right now, is that regulators would actually have to enforce the strict privacy rights of consumers under common market rules. Yet adtech companies and large digital platforms seem virtually out of control, leaving the initiative for individual privacy to the users themselves.

(Devdiscourse journalists were not involved in the production of this article. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Devdiscourse and Devdiscourse claims no responsibility for them.)

Laura J. Boyer