According to The Wall Street Journal, Google operated a secret program that used data from past bids in Google’s digital advertising exchange which allegedly places its own ad-buying system ahead of its competitors. The name of the secret project is “Project Bernanke” and was revealed in an improperly unredacted document that Google had filed as part of an anti-trust lawsuit in Texas. The Saturday report mentioned that Google’s program was not disclosed to publishers who sold ads through the company’s ad-buying system. Google has been allowed by a Federal Judge to re-file the document under seal. According to the Wall Street Journal, Google’s Project Bernanke was a secret to outside advertisers and has definitely been lucrative for Google as it has generated hundreds of millions of dollars for the tech company since it embarked on it.
In December last year, an anti-trust lawsuit was filed against Google by Texas Attorney Ken Paxton. He accused Google of running a digital-ad monopoly that has adverse effects on ad industry competitors and publishers. Ken Paxton accused Google of employing anti-competitive tactics and that Project Bernanke was a major part of this. According to the Wall Street Journal, in the unredacted filing that Google wrote, the company said that the data from Project Bernanke was “comparable to data maintained by other buying tools”.
Ad-industry buyers and publishers argue that the secret program that Google operated gave it an edge over them by giving the company the ability to alter bids by its clients.
As reported by The Verge, Texas cited in court documents an internal presentation from 2013 showing what Google said about its “secret” project. Google in 2013 said that Project Bernanke would generate $230 million in revenue for that year.
A Google spokesperson responded to these claims in an email to The Verge that the claim by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton “misinterprets many aspects of our ad tech business. We look forward to making our case in court”.
There is no clear reason why Google named the project “Bernanke”. The best-known Bernanke is the Chair of the Federal Reserve from 2006 to 2014- Ben Bernanke.