The UK competition authority has accepted Google’s commitments to create a level playing field in online advertising after phasing out third-party cookies.
The online advertising world has been rocked by Google’s decision to phase out third-party cookies from its Chrome online browser by 2023, a move that prevents publishers and advertisers from seeing what interests individuals when they’re surfing the web.
The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority began an investigation into the changes in January, following complaints from smaller rivals that Google would benefit the most because it already holds the most user data.
On Friday, the regulator said Google’s revised offerings, which include an independent oversight administrator who will have access to Google’s systems to ensure it doesn’t crush rivals, address its concerns. Once he accepts Google’s olive branch, his investigation will be closed, the CMA said, adding that Google would embrace the changes globally.
Google’s renewed commitments follow a series of proposals last June, including a pledge not to use its “raw” data, which is collected by Google through its Chrome browser and Android platform, to target individuals on the web with advertising after the third -party cookies have been phased out.
Google has also proposed changes in the way it develops its alternative to cookies, a suite of features known collectively as a “privacy sandbox.” These include tools that would analyze a user’s behavior on their browser, rather than centrally. For advertisers, Google will group people into cohorts that can be ad-fed. Still, academics and competitors have claimed that Google’s control over the design process will only consolidate its power on the internet.
In its revised offer to the CMA, Google promised that it would bring more transparency in the design of these tools and allow competitors and industry players to participate more formally in the development of the system.
“The fact that a British regulator was able to secure any concession from a global company is impressive, it is certainly a battle won in a long war,” said Reuben Binns, computer scientist at the University of Oxford. , specializing in third party data tracking and analyzed Google’s Privacy Sandbox proposals. “Their second commitment to opening the privacy sandbox is more vague, and that’s the one I would worry about.”
CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said Google’s commitments “would level the playing field for advertisers, ad technology providers and publishers and remove Google’s possible inherent advantage.”
Friday’s announcement follows an update from the UK data regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office, which has worked with the CMA to review Google’s plans. The ICO warned that new online advertising tools must comply with data protection laws and “stop the excessive collection and use of people’s data.”
The regulator will consult on these proposals until December 17. If accepted by the CMA, Google’s commitments will become legally binding and end the investigation.