Data Privacy

To keep data private, keep it personal

Personal data privacy is in the news again, this time with Google accused of secretly feeding data to advertisers so they can better target ads.

Brave, another search engine, claims that Google is allowing adtech companies to compile and share personal information from users on over 8.4 million websites. This, the company said, allows adtech companies to easily build and keep virtual profiles of Google users without their consent.

In evidence submitted to Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner, which is in charge of policing the search giant in Europe, the company said this amounted to a “GDPR workround.”

Google, for its part, told The Telegraph: “We do not serve personalised ads or send bid requests to bidders without user consent. The Irish DPC – as Google’s lead DPA – and the UK ICO are already looking into real time bidding in order to assess its compliance with GDPR. We welcome that work and are co-operating in full.”

Wherever the outcome of this allegation, even the idea that this could be happening, let alone the potential reality, is only possible because of the backwards way in which we continue to treat personal data.

Information about us, most often created by us, either directly or through our online behaviour, should belong to us. It should be under our control. We, and only we, should be in charge of where and with whom that data is shared.

Legislation such as GDPR has advanced the ideology of individuals having more control over their own data. It offers a recourse when things go wrong – or are suspected of doing so – but the number of companies continuing to traffic data for their own commercial means remains outrageously high.

We have always said that personal data ownership is a human right. As technology – such as, and others working to make a Personal Data Economy real and valuable – becomes available, a utopia where the reality matches the belief is ever-closer to becoming a reality.

We can – and must – all work to speed its progress, choosing apps and services that respect personal data and consent over those which don’t.