June 21, 2021
The CMA has announced that it is to take up a role in the design and development of Google’s Privacy Sandbox proposals to ensure they do not distort competition. Following an investigation, the CMA has secured commitments from Google to address concerns about Google’s proposal to remove third-party cookies on Chrome.
The CMA says that it has worked closely with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in reviewing the Privacy Sandbox proposals and will continue to work closely with the ICO to assess the effectiveness of alternatives to third party cookies being developed under the proposals.
The offer of commitments is a result of enforcement action that the CMA launched against Google in January 2021, when a number of businesses raised concerns about the company’s plans to phase out third-party cookies and other functionalities in its Chrome browser. While there have been privacy concerns about their use, the CMA notes that these cookies are used by digital advertisers to personalise and target advertisements more effectively, providing an income stream for free online content such as newspapers.
The CMA was concerned that, without regulatory oversight and scrutiny, Google’s alternatives could be developed and implemented in ways that impede competition in digital advertising markets. This would cause advertising spending to become even more concentrated on Google, harming consumers who ultimately pay for the cost of advertising. It would also undermine the ability of online publishers such as newspapers to generate revenue and continue to produce valuable content in the future.
The CMA will now consult on the commitments, which, by involving the CMA and ICO in the development of the proposals, are hoped to protect competition in digital advertising markets while safeguarding users’ privacy, and which include specific limits on how Google can use and combine customer data for digital advertising.