Now, ask yourself, what's meant by the term “inventory”? A comprehensive list. To be clear, this list, as the ICCL report states, outlines in great detail the markings left by our digital footprints.
This “$117+ billion industry,” as the authors noted, “operates behind the scenes on websites and apps.” It tracks everything—absolutely everything you do—including what you look at, “no matter how private or sensitive.”
Moreover, this digital ledger records where and when you go. If you think this is bad—and it very much is—I have even more bad news for you: Things only get worse from here.
Every single day, 365 days per year, Google broadcasts all of this data to almost 5,000 different companies worldwide. This enables the recipients, all 5,000 of them, to extensively profile you.
Have you ever wondered why you get targeted with very specific, very personal ads?
Well, now you know. In the words of the ICCL researchers, “RTB is the biggest data breach ever recorded.” Besides tracking and sharing what you view online, Google’s RTB shares your real-world location many times per day. How many? “178 Trillion times every year in the U.S. & Europe.”
If you happen to be an American reading this and you happen to use Google on a daily basis, then you can expect to have your “online activity and location exposed 747 times every day." If you live in Ohio, that number rises to 812. Why Ohio? Don’t ask me; I’m just the messenger.
Across the United States, internet users’ online behavior and locations are tracked, cataloged, and shared more than 100 trillion times per year.
In Europe, things aren’t much better; RTB exposes people’s data 376 times every 24 hours. Online behavior and locations are tracked 71 trillion times.
For some reason, Google really seems to have it in for the Germans. According to the report, “Google sends 19.6 million broadcasts about German Internet users’ online behaviour every minute that they are online.”
Whether you happen to live in Berlin or Boston, Munich or Miami, the following point should scare you: “Private data is sent to firms across the globe, including to Russia and China, without any means of controlling what is then done with the data.”
Addressing the Elephant in the RoomIs Google evil? Considering that the company quite literally removed the “don’t be evil” clause from its code of conduct back in 2018, I’ll let you answer that question in your own time.
Whether or not Google is evil is up for debate. However, what isn’t up for debate is the fact that Google is far too powerful. This power has allowed the multinational tech giant to act with a great degree of impunity, selling our data to thousands of bidders with unimaginably deep pockets.
So one wonders, what, if anything, can be done?
No doubt, Google will fight hard to maintain its RTB revenue stream. Let’s hope, for the sake of us everyone, the senators’ attempt to rein in Google proves to be a roaring success. Unwanted location-tracking and data-sharing need to stop—and it needs to stop now.