Tech giant Google may have provided potentially sensitive user data with a sanctioned ad tech company, RuTarget which is owned by Russia’s largest state bank until as recently as June 23, according to a new report provided to ProPublica. The US US first sanctioned “RuTarget” (also known as Segmento) in February and imposed full blocking sanctions in April.
RuTarget is an advertising technology company that typically seeks out user data about people browsing websites and apps in Ukraine and other parts of the world to support its core function of placing digital ads on behalf of other brands. However, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner sent a letter to Google and other entities to stop supplying data visibility to a list of Russian companies including RuTarget. Google was also told to audit its advertising business’s compliance with economic sanctions.
According to the findings from digital ad analysis firm Adalytics, close to 700 examples of RuTarget receiving user data from Google were found after it was added to a U.S. Treasury list of sanctioned entities on February 24.
“The data sharing between Google and RuTarget stopped four months later on June 23, the day ProPublica contacted Google about the activity,” the ProPublica report reads. The data sharing between Google and RuTarget stopped four months later on June 23.
When ProPublica reached out to Google, it was told that the company had blocked RuTarget from using its services back in March, however, the company did acknowledge that user and ad buying data from Google was still being received before being alerted by ProPublica and Adalytics.
The company may have provided RuTarget with sensitive user data including unique mobile phone IDs, IP addresses, location information, and details about users’ interests and online activity, according to the ProPublica report.
Back in April, Google was caught in a similar situation when Adalytics found that the company had continued placing ads on Russian websites which have been on US Treasury’s sanctions list for years.