Google's secretive 'Project Bernanke' reportedly used data from outside advertisers to benefit the search giant's own ad system

Google's secretive 'Project Bernanke' reportedly used data from outside advertisers to benefit the search giant's own ad system
Google in Manhattan.Mark Lennihan/AP Photo

Google reportedly ran a secretive project - codenamed "Project Bernanke" - using bidding data collected from outside advertisers using its exchange to benefit the search giant's own ad system.

The codename leaked in an erroneously unredacted document filed by Google in response to an antitrust lawsuit brought by Texas. It was first noticed midweek by reporters at MLex, a newswire service, then reported by The Wall Street Journal on Saturday evening.

The filing was resubmitted under seal.

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The Journal, which reviewed the unredacted filing, reported that outside advertisers weren't told about the "Bernanke" system, which brought in millions for Google each year. The project was in place for years, the Journal reported.

The antitrust lawsuit brought by Texas in December alleged that Google used anticompetitive practices.


"Google repeatedly used its monopolistic powers to control pricing" and "engage in market collusions to rig auctions," Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a Facebook post in December.

Texas alleged that the "Bernanke" project was instrumental in those efforts, according to the Journal's reporting.

In the unredacted filing, Google reportedly wrote that information that came from the project was "comparable to data maintained by other buying tools."

In Google's publicly available response on April 6, the company said the plaintiffs in Texas had a "deep misunderstanding" of the digital advertising market. The state's case said "remarkably little about how this lawsuit would help consumers," Google's lawyers wrote.

"The government intervention sought by Plaintiffs would do significant harm to the many businesses, large and small, who choose to use Google's effective advertising services, with a ripple effect of unintended consequences," Google's lawyers wrote.


Google and other companies have long used codenames - like "Wolverine" - for their projects.

It was unclear why the name "Bernanke" was used for the advertising project. As chair of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke led US monetary policy between 2006 and 2014.