Oh Canada! Google Settles Health-Related Behavioral Advertising Claims

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) announced on January 15, 2013, that it reached a settlement with Google over the use of health information in behavioral advertising. The case involving a complaint that an individual visited sites about sleep apnea devices and its browser retained cookies that led to advertisements targeting sleep apnea devices at unrelated websites. OPC cited the practice as violating Google’s own policy that, when tailored ads are shown, the company will not associate a cookie or other identifiers with sensitive categories, such as race, religion, sexual orientation or health. OPC recommended that Google develop a more formalized and rigorous system for reviewing advertisements for policy compliance. Of note, OPC coordinated its investigation with the U.S. FTC, and also expressed concerns that other advertising networks are violating Canadian privacy law.