Google is at risk of another hefty privacy fine under the European Union’s strict data protection rules after Irish regulators opened a probe of possible violations into how the search giant processes users’ data in advertising transactions.
“The purpose of the inquiry is to establish whether processing of personal data carried out at each stage of an advertising transaction” is in line with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, the Irish Data Protection Commission said Wednesday in a statement. The probe focuses on Google’s online Ad Exchange.
The EU’s so-called GDPR took effect a year ago, empowering the bloc’s previously toothless privacy authorities to levy fines of as much as 4% of a company’s annual sales for the most serious violations. Google was earlier this year slapped with a $55.8 million privacy fine by the French data regulator for violating the EU law.
Ireland’s data regulator on Jan. 22 became the lead authority to watch over Google’s privacy compliance, after the Alphabet Inc. unit established its main European base in the country.
“We will engage fully with the DPC’s investigation and welcome the opportunity for further clarification of Europe’s data protection rules for real-time bidding,” Google said in a statement. “Authorized buyers using our systems are subject to stringent policies and standards.”
The latest investigation — the first by the Irish watchdog into Google — brings to 19 the number of open cases by the regulator targeting big U.S. tech companies. They include probes into Apple Inc., Twitter Inc., eight probes into Facebook Inc., plus one into Instagram and two into WhatsApp.
The Google case will analyze whether its data processing happens on a “lawful basis” and whether it respects EU “principles of transparency and data minimization” and will look into Google’s data retention practices, the regulator added.
The watchdog said it has been looking into privacy compliance in the area of personalized ads for a while and received a number of submissions, including by Johnny Ryan, chief policy officer at Brave, which makes an ad-blocking browser.