Brave Files Complaint Against Google and Ad Tech

A leading member of Brave is filing a complaint against the advertising practices of “Google and other ad tech companies”. According to Brave’s blog, this concerns a “massive and ongoing data breach that affects virtually every user on the web”.

The complaint alleges that the breach occurs when advertisers submit a “bid request” for user information. Apparently, user data is broadcast in order to solicit potential advertisers, which means that user data is not protected against unauthorized access. “Under the GDPR this is unlawful,” according to the complaint.

The post goes on to note that bid request data can reveal the content a user has viewed, as well as their location, device, and IP address. Additionally, “data broker segment IDs” can reveal just about anything:

“This could denote things like your income bracket, age and gender, habits, social media influence, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, political leaning, etc.”

Brave is notable for taking an alternative approach to advertising. Not only does the Brave browser allow users to opt-in to ads, it uses cryptocurrency to compensate users who view ads. The browser has become incredibly popular with users, but this initiative could be a force for change on a much larger scale than Brave’s crypto-based advertising model.

Suggested Reading Learn about the advantages of blockchain in our beginner’s guide.

An International Matter

The complaint is being filed by Johnny Ryan, who joined Brave in July as the company’s Chief Policy & Industry Relations Officer:

“Dr. Ryan reports to Brendan Eich, co-founder and CEO, and is responsible for policy and privacy matters, as well as relationships with industry partners and regulators.”

Ryan is filing the complaint with European data protection authorities, as the regulation in question (the GDPR) is based in European law. Additionally, Ryan is filing the complaint in cooperation with members of the UK-based Open Rights Group and University College London.

Despite the UK focus, Brave’s headline explicitly targets Google, which is an American company. Yet according to Ryan’s blog post, “our complaint should trigger a EU-wide investigation in to the ad tech industry’s practices.” This international aspect makes it unclear how events will unfold.

Brave is championing the rights of users, but this is just one approach to advertising. Although this is an aggressive but much-needed stand from a company that has aligned itself with the cryptocurrency community, the blockchain could conceivably provide advantages to advertisers as well.

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