In late June, Google shared user data, including IP addresses, geographic locations and details about users’ identities, interests and search activity, with an advertising company owned by Russia’s largest state bank. report shared with ProPublica†
The company, RuTarget, is based in Moscow and helps sell digital advertising to brands and agencies. In February, the same day Russian forces invaded Ukraine, RuTarget was added to a list of entities sanctioned by the US Treasury Department, banning US entities from doing business with the company.
RuTarget and its parent company, the Russian-controlled financial company Sberbank, were also hit by more aggressive full-blocking sanctions by the US Treasury Department in April.
But according to a report from digital analytics company Adalyticswhich was quoted by ProPublica, after the first sanction in February, there were at least 700 cases of Google sharing website and mobile app browsing data with RuTarget from users around the world, including in Ukraine, where war has been raging for four months. Such data could be used by Russian military and intelligence services to track people, spy on targets or triangulate battle zones, experts say.
The sharing happened even after multiple US lawmakers called on big tech companies like Google to monitor their advertising activities for compliance with economic sanctions and warned of the national security risks posed by data sharing. In a bipartisan letter sent to Google last yearTwitter, 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 gold mine for foreign intelligence agencies that could exploit it to inform and incentivize hacking, blackmail and influence campaigns.”
A Google spokesperson told the publication that in March RuTarget had been banned from buying Google ad products but was still receiving user data from the Silicon Valley tech giant. According to ProPublica, Google stopped sharing the data with RuTarget on June 23, after the publication reached out to inquire about the report. The company also said it would take action to prevent RuTarget from buying Google ads through unsanctioned third parties in Russia.