Google privacy lawsuit over ad bidding process to go forward

The Google app logo is seen on a smartphone in this illustration
REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
  • Judge declined to dismiss all but one claim in Monday decision
  • Lawsuit centered on Google's "real-time bidding" system

(Reuters) - Google LLC has failed to convince a California federal judge to dismiss a privacy lawsuit that alleges the Alphabet Inc unit sells or gives personal information to third parties through its digital advertising system, without informing users.

In a Monday opinion, U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in Oakland said Google account holders have sufficiently alleged most of their claims in the lawsuit over the company's "real-time bidding" process.

A Google spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday that privacy and transparency are "core" to its ad services.

"We never sell people's personal information, we have strict policies specifically prohibiting personalized ads based on sensitive categories of information, and sensitive user data like health, race, or religion is not shared with our partners," the spokesperson said.

Elizabeth Pritzker of Pritzker Levine, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

The Google system serves as an auction in which companies place bids to win ad space for targeted ads to individuals, according to an August 2021 amended complaint, originally filed in March.

Google provides "highly specific" identifying information to participants in the process, known as "bidstream data," which the winning bidder pays for, but all participants can collect even if they don't submit a bid, the complaint said.

That data includes unique and browsing identifiers and IP addresses, and other "interests" associated with the bid, the users said.

They allege Google doesn't inform account holders of data collection and sales.

Google's lawyers argued in their October 2021 motion to dismiss that the company has disclosed which data it would share in the real-time bidding process.

The case is In re Google RTB Consumer Privacy Litigation, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, No. 4:21-CV-02155

For the plaintiffs: Elizabeth Pritzker of Pritzker Levine

For Google: Jeffrey Gutkin and Michael Rhodes of Cooley

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Sara Merken reports on privacy and data security, as well as the business of law, including legal innovation and key players in the legal services industry. Reach her at