The Russian tech company Yandex has been criticized in this country for its proximity to the Kremlin. However, according to research, hundreds of German news sites list the “Russian Google” as an advertising partner.

Google is by far the most popular search engine in Germany. According to a Statista survey, 89 percent of Germans used Alphabet's search engine in 2023. Globally, Google has a market share of around 83.5 percent.

This makes Google the most popular search engine in the world. However, it is not available in every country. Russia, for example, has its “own Google” with Yandex, which has been criticized for its proximity to the Kremlin.

A research by Netzpolitik.orgthe Swiss journalist Adrienne Fichter and the tech blog has now revealed that Yandex was listed as an advertising partner in hundreds of German media outlets. Sensitive data from German users could have been leaked.

German media lists Yandex as an advertising partner

Yandex, which is often referred to as the “Russian Google”, has been around since 1997. Similar to the US company, the Russian counterpart not only has a search engine, but also, among other things, a browser or platforms for music streaming, navigation or email.

However, Yandex's independence is in question. According to various media reports, the Kremlin has been exerting more and more influence on the company's search results, especially since Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine. This applies to both the news search, which only shows media loyal to the Kremlin. But the search results themselves are also censored, according to media reports.

In the meantime, company founder Arkadi Wolosch even had to give up management of the group. The group has sold its Russian business to a Russian investor group. Since then, the business has been under the leadership of Russia's former finance minister Alexei Kudrin.

But despite these changes at Yandex, the site can still be found as an advertising partner in numerous media outlets, including those with very wide reach. This is what Michael Maurantonio, an expert in online advertising fraud, found out.

The list of media includes RTLdem Stern or the Frankfurter Rundschau also Springers Business Insiderthe New Germany or the Berliner Zeitung.

Are there still advertising partnerships with German media?

According to research by Netzpolitik.orgthe Swiss journalist Adrienne Fichter and the tech blog At the time of the press inquiry, Yandex was found as a so-called reseller in the ads.txt files of German media companies.

However, these so-called resellers can not only access the advertising space. The users' data is also theoretically accessible to these partners. But has this data also flowed to Russia via Yandex?

At the request of Netzpolitik.orgAdrienne Fichter and “Several media outlets are pointing out an error that they want to have fixed in the meantime.”

The fault lies with service providers with whom they work to market their advertising space.

In its response to the press query, Springer-Verlag asserts that “at no time was Business Insider Germany’s advertising inventory marketed through Yandex or data transmitted.” The group works “with renowned partners”.

There are “strict criteria” for cooperation that the group checks “regularly”. Springer, however, leaves unanswered why Yandex still appeared on the list despite this. Other publishers also refer to external partners for Yandex's performance.

Yandex has withdrawn itself

According to AdTech expert Zech Edwards, the quoted, Yandex itself has cleaned up its partner lists in recent years. The company appears to have “further refined its list after the sale to Russian interests.”

The fact that the data of German users has not been transferred to Yandex is mainly due to Yandex updating the list of former partners. Yandex's Sellers.json file currently only lists 177 publishers, previously there were tens of thousands.

But at some point in the future, when Yandex adds the former partners' accountIDs back into their file, it's likely that some of the former ad tech streams will be turned back on. Yandex would then start receiving data and money from the same sites.

AdTech expert Zech Edwards is therefore calling on publishers to remove account IDs that are no longer valid from their ads.txt records. This is especially important “if these AccountIDs belong to a company like Yandex, which has changed ownership towards Russian interests close to Putin and which can now be trusted less than ever before.”

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