In late June, Google was sharing user data — which could include IP addresses, geographic locations and details about users’ identities, interests and search activity — with an advertising company owned by Russia’s largest state bank , according to a separate report. with ProPublica.
The company, RuTarget, is based in Moscow and helps mediate the sale of digital advertising to brands and agencies. In February, on the same day that Russian troops invaded Ukraine, RuTarget was added to the list of sanctioned entities by the US Treasury, thus banning US entities from doing business with the company.
RuTarget and its parent company, Russian-controlled financial firm Sberbank, were also hit with more aggressive full-blockade sanctions by the US Treasury in April.
But according to a report from digital analytics firm Adalytics, which was cited by ProPublica, there were at least 700 cases following the first sanction in February of Google sharing web and mobile app browsing data with RuTarget, from users across the globe, including Ukraine, where the fight has been ongoing for four months. Such data could be used by the Russian military and intelligence forces to track people, spy on targets or triangulate combat zones, experts say.
The split came even as several US lawmakers demanded that big tech companies like Google audit their ad business for compliance with economic sanctions and warned of national security risks posed by such data sharing. In a bipartisan letter sent last year to Google, Twitter, AT&T and Verizon, among others, six senators including Ron Wyden, Kirsten Gillibrand, Mark Warner and Elizabeth Warren wrote that “this information would be a goldmine for foreign services of intelligence that can use it to inform and enhance hacking, blackmail and influence campaigns.”
A Google spokesperson told the publication that RuTarget was banned from buying Google ad products in March, but had continued to receive user data — used for ad serving — from the Silicon Valley tech giant. According to ProPublica, Google stopped sharing data with RuTarget on June 23, after the publication managed to ask about the report. The company also said it will take action to block RuTarget from buying Google ads through unsanctioned third parties in Russia.