The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has announced that it will resume its investigation into real-time bidding (RTB) and the AdTech industry after privacy campaigners threatened to sue the data regulator for failure to comply.

The ICO said in May that it would suspend its investigation into RTB, despite a 2019 report found that the AdTech industry, which is largely dominated by Facebook and Google, is violating privacy laws, particularly regarding RTB .

The ICO said at the time that it did not want to “put undue pressure on an industry” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that its concerns remain and that it will do its work “for the months ahead, if that happens is, would resume right “.

The ICO announced today that it would resume its investigation. Simon McDougall, ICO Deputy Commissioner for Regulatory Innovation and Technology, said in a statement: “Transparency and protection of vulnerable citizens are priorities for the ICO. RTB’s complex system can use people’s sensitive personal data to advertise and requires people’s express consent, which is currently not the case.

“Sharing personal data with potentially hundreds of companies without properly assessing and addressing the risk posed by these counterparties also raises questions about the security and retention of this data.

“Our work will continue with a series of audits focused on digital market platforms and we will be issuing assessment notices to specific companies in the coming months.

McDougall added that following its GDPR enforcement move against Experian in October 2020, it will also review the roll data brokers in the AdTech ecosystem that play a huge role at RTB.

“The investigation is large and complex, and because of the sensitivity of the work, there will be times when it will not be possible to provide regular updates,” he added. “However, we are obliged to publish our final results as soon as the investigation is completed.”

News that the investigation has resumed is likely to be welcomed by the Open Rights Group (ORG) and web browser developer Brave. The former threatened the ICO with legal action for failing to take action against the AdTech industry, while the latter accused the regulator of “fall asleep at the wheel “.

“To the best of our knowledge, the ICO has not used any of its legal powers to investigate the massive data breach in real time in the thirty months since I blew the whistle to your colleagues,” said Chief Policy and Industry Relations Officer at Brave Software, Johnny Ryan.

“This is worrying and difficult to reconcile with the growing budget of the ICO, which has doubled over the past two years.”

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