Google makes Privacy Sandbox pledge to UK competition watchdog amid fears over grip on online advertising

Asia's Tech News Daily

The competition watchdog says it has secured assurances from Google over its use of customer data amid fears its Privacy Sandbox plans could squeeze out its online advertising rivals.

After a year-long investigation, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced that it had won “improved commitments” from Google on its proposals to remove third-party cookies and other functions from its Chrome browser software.

The search giant had proposed changes to its “Privacy Sandbox” project, which would allow it to remove third-party cookies on Google Chrome browsers and replace them with new tools for targeting advertising.

Google said removing cookies, which track individuals as they browse the internet, would increase the privacy of its users by concealing their data.

But the CMA said that could cause advertising spending to become even more concentrated on Google, and could also undermine the ability of online publishers such as newspapers to generate revenue and produce content.

The watchdog acted following complaints from an alliance of tech businesses, advertisers and publishers seeking to break the grip of big tech, known as “Movement for an Open Web.”

The group said of Google’s pledge that certain functionalities should not be removed before third-party cookies and greater transparency over self-preferencing its advertising products and services, adding: “Beware Black Friday offers – read the small print.”

James Rosewell, founder and director of MOW, said: “Should the commitments avoid the need for an injunction to prevent the digital market being controlled by trillion-dollar US companies then we would welcome them.”

CMA Chief Executive Andrea Coscelli said: “We have always been clear that Google’s efforts to protect user’s privacy cannot come at the cost of reduced competition.”

“If accepted, the commitments we have obtained from Google become legally binding, promoting competition in digital markets, helping to protect the ability of online publishers to raise money through advertising and safeguarding users’ privacy.”

The CMA said its intervention, and the improved commitments, were designed to ensure that Google’s proposals could improve privacy without adversely affecting competition.

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