Ireland's data protection watchdog has launched an investigation into
collection of personal data for the purpose of online advertising.
"A statutory inquiry pursuant to section 110 of the Data Protection Act 2018 has been commenced in respect of Google Ireland Limited's processing of personal data in the context of its online Ad Exchange," the Data Protection Commission said in a statement Wednesday.
Google didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
The DPC, one of the lead authorities over Google in the European Union, wants to know whether the search giant's "processing of personal data carried out at each stage of an advertising transaction" is in compliance with the EU's General Data Protection Regulation. The
is a sweeping law that gives residents of the European Union more control over their personal data and seeks to clarify rules for online services.
The DPC inquiry follows a complaint filed in Europe in September by privacy-focused browser maker Brave that says Google violates GDPR by broadcasting personal information to companies bidding to show targeted ads. At the time, Google denied any wrongdoing.
On Wednesday, Johnny Ryan, Brave's chief policy and industry relations officer, said the DPC inquiry signals a change is coming that goes beyond just Google.
"We need to reform online advertising to protect privacy, and to protect advertisers and publishers from legal risk under the GDPR," Ryan said in a blog post.
The EU probe comes as consumers, lawmakers and regulators take a harder look at how tech companies collect and use their personal information. Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal last year brought data collection issues to the forefront. Google has also been criticized for its wide-scale data operation and the way its location history settings could mislead consumers with its disclosures. In response, Google and Facebook have both begun to preach the virtues of privacy.
Earlier this month, Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in a New York Times op-ed that privacy "should not be a luxury good." He continued, "We're also working hard to challenge the assumption that products need more data to be more helpful."
Google also pushed a privacy message at its Marketing Live summit last week in San Francisco, where the search giant addressed more than 5,000 advertisers and partners in its ad network. Prabhakar Raghavan, Google's senior vice president of advertising and commerce, said that even though the company collects lots of user information to improve its products, Google should use "as little of that data as possible over time" for ad targeting.
"Whoever's leading the market [in five years] will be the ones who are actually the most trusted," Raghavan told CNET. "If we can maintain that trust, then we can remain a market leader. If we don't, it's a question."
Originally published May 22, 11:27 a.m. PT.
Update, 11:44 a.m. PT and 12:32 p.m PT: Adds more background.