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US Senators Ask Digital Ad Auctioneers To Name Foreign Clients Amid National Security Concerns

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A bipartisan group of lawmakers are asking questions about the inner workings of digital advertising amid concerns about the targeting capabilities of industry users who could pose a threat to national security.

When someone loads a webpage, a digital ad auction occurs within seconds to determine which personalized ads the person will see. During this auction, users’ personal data, including location, browsing history, and demographic details, may be sent to hundreds of businesses bidding on ad space. The barriers to participating in these auctions are low and any company participating in the auction can access user information without having to bid.

On Friday, a group of US Senators led by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D., Oregon) sent a letter to the largest companies holding the auction AT&T Inc., Index Exchange Inc., Alphabet Inc.s Google, Magnite Inc., OpenX Software Ltd., PubMatic Inc., Twitter Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. asking them what steps they are taking to ensure that companies participating in the auction are doing so for the sole purpose of purchasing advertising spaces.

They also asked companies to provide the names of all overseas customers who had access to user data through auctions in the past three years.

As Congress debates possible federal privacy legislation, we must understand the serious national security risks posed by the unrestricted sale of US data to foreign companies and governments, Senators said. in the letter, a copy of which has been reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Beyond Senator Wyden, the letter was signed by the senses. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., NY), Sherrod Brown (D. Ohio), Bill Cassidy (R., La.), Mark Warner (D., Va.) And Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.).

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