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European & US Data Is Shared Hundreds Of Times Per Day Without Consent

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According to a new report from the BBC, the average European internet user’s data is shared as often as 376 times per day and the numbers only get worse for US users. Based on the report — centered around a study conducted by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), US users have their data shared as often as 747 times in the same period.

On average, the report concludes, US users’ data, including data about what sites they visit and where the device accessing the site is located. As well as information about previous sites the user has visited and the “subject matter” of the page. All of which, according to the ICCL study, go to brokers, rather than advertisers. The brokers then determine where to place ads and what those ads are.

Why is it a big deal how European and US user data is shared?

The data that’s brokered for advertising is, according to ICCL, not personally identifiable. That means that the data isn’t, by traditional means at the very least, linked back to any individual user. But according to ICCL senior fellow Dr. Johnny Ryan, that doesn’t matter much.

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According to Dr. Ryan, the fact that data is shared on internet users in this way, both in the US and in European countries, is “the biggest breach ever recorded.”

Moreover, the study found that the process is effectively automatic. And not only does it happen almost instantly. But brokers are viewing all of that data in order to serve the “most relevant bidder” for ad space. Bolstering the multi-million dollar ad industry as often as 107 trillion times per year in the US. And as often as 71 billion times per year in Europe. The ICCL notes that, for German users, internet data is shared once for every minute each individual is online.

Perhaps more telling — and arguably more important — the report appears to have been sourced from a single advertising firm. Namely, Google. ICCL utilized a Google feed for a 30-day period to reach its conclusion. Essentially leaving out two of Google’s biggest rivals in tech and advertising — Amazon and Facebook-parent Meta. So the true extent of data shared from users in European countries and in the US is likely far greater.

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What is happening with this information?

Now, this is not the first report regarding studies into how much data is collected for the ad market. But ICCL is pursuing legal action and the most recent study is not a small part of that.

Specifically, the human rights group is working with the Data Protection Committee in its bid to tamp down on data sharing. And with the industry itself. With arguments primarily centered on consent. Or, more specifically, centered around the fact that the ad firms and the “real-time bidding” industry haven’t explicitly asked user permission to access the data.