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Shocker: Google caught breaking privacy laws yet again

Published Jan 15th, 2014 2:15PM EST
Google Breaks Privacy Law Canada

Google has been caught again breaking privacy laws, this time in Canada where the search giant targeted Internet users with health-related ads, which is illegal in the country. The Canadian Office of the Privacy Commissioner began investigating Google when it learned that a man who used Google Search to look for information related to medical devices that treat sleep apnea was subsequently targeted by behavioral advertising on websites that were not related to his medical condition.

“Behavioural advertising is a staple of the search engine and online advertising industries.” The Financial Post writes. “When a user searches for information about a particular brand or product, it’s not uncommon for that user to being seeing ads for those brands on sites that have advertising partnerships with the search engine.”

However, sensitive information including health-related information should not be used for targeted advertising according to Canadian law.

Google has agreed to make changes in order to stop this from happening again in the future, and to improve monitoring practices. Apparently Google also explained that it’s not entirely its fault for what happened, as the advertisers themselves are also to blame for not abiding by its own policies. Google expects to implement the required changes by next June, including properly informing advertisers about what new marketing campaigns they can conduct and upgrading its automatic review systems.

This isn’t the first time Google has been caught violating privacy laws.

Last week, French regulators fined the company $204,000 saying that the company’s single privacy policy is against local law. In mid-December 2013, Spain fined $1.23 million for collecting information about users without properly disclosing it. In July 2013, the U.K.’s Information Commissioners Office ordered Google to change its privacy policy to comply with local data laws. Earlier in March, Google agreed to pay $7 million to settle the Street View data collection privacy case in the U.S. while in August 2012 it settled a privacy case with the FTC for $22.5 million.

The company is also facing a formal anti-competitive practices inquiry in Canada, as Google’s search business has allegedly violated Canadian laws. A similar antitrust investigation probing Google is conducted in the European Union.

Chris Smith
Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he closely follows the events in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises. Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.