Google Allegedly Used Secret 'Project Bernanke' To Give Its Ad-Buying System an Advantage

So far, Google has denied any claims of wrongdoing.
Fabienne Lang
Utku Kucukduner/Interesting Engineering

Newswire service MLex and the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) separately reported discovering unredacted court documents Google filed as part of an antitrust lawsuit in Texas that explain Google allegedly ran a hidden project called "Project Bernanke."

The project supposedly gave Google's clients a higher chance of winning bids to its competitive ad space, as the tech giant used data from publishers' ad services to direct them towards the price it was more willing to pay.

In the end, it looked like Google had an unfair advantage against other ad-buying tools as it could pay publishers less. The publishers selling these ads were not clocked in on the hidden project, the WSJ explains.

The world of digital advertising is a complex landscape. Put in simple terms, publishers sell ad space on their website in a bid system. Similar to auction houses, advertisers place bids down for specific ad spaces on publishers' websites, and whoever has the highest bid wins the ad space. 

Google vs. Texas

So in terms of Google, the tech giant's secretive project allegedly used data from its past bids made through Google Ads to steer clients in the pricing direction that would shift the odds in their favor.

Ultimately, Google's clients' won more bids compared to rival ad tools. However, Google maintains that its Project Bernanke operated much in the same way that other ad-buying tools do, reported the WSJ.

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It also looks like Google made some extra cash in the process, but this exact amount has not been confirmed or disclosed. However, court documents cited by Texas stated that an internal presentation made by Google in 2013 said it expected Project Bernanke to draw in $230 million that year.

It looks like the Texas-led antitrust lawsuit will continue to forge ahead, and the initial court documents have been refiled under seal since they were discovered. 

Google has acknowledged the existence of the project but has said it hasn't done anything out of order.

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