The tension between privacy and competition revealed in Google’s latest regulatory investigation

the global wave of privacy legislation has led to the reduction in ad targeting, but its effects on the online landscape are much broader than that. The latest investigation into Google’s proposed web browser changes exposes the trade-offs that lawmakers concerned with consumer protection and regulators seeking to preserve competition will need to consider.

Last week, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority launched a formal investigation into Google’s Privacy Sandbox, an ongoing series of proposals for post-cookie online advertising in Google Chrome while providing more data security to consumers.

The AMC will assess whether or not the implementation of Privacy Sandbox – which currently offers most online advertising mechanisms. take place in the Chrome browser– would lead to an even greater concentration of ad spending in the Google ecosystem.

Protection of privacy

Privacy Sandbox is Google’s attempt to respond to growing calls for better protection of user data, as indicated by laws such as CCPA and GDPR. According to critics, however, Sandbox actually reinforces Google’s dominance in the market by using user privacy protection to justify anti-competitive behavior.

“The Google Privacy Sandbox proposals will potentially have a very big impact on publishers like newspapers and the digital advertising market,” said Andrea Coscelli, CEO of CMA, in A declaration. “But there are also privacy issues to consider.”

Anti-Privacy Sandbox recommends marketers for an open web to file complaints with the CMA late last year, with the UK trade body telling Adweek of its concerns also include Google’s single sign-on process, a move that could see publishers relinquish control of reader registration on their sites.

Wayne Blodwell, CEO of advertiser consultancy The Programmatic Advisory, told Adweek about phasing out third-party cookies from any web browser, just like Apple Safari and Mozilla Firefox have done so in recent years – promotes Google’s advertising operations.

“They have a great first party relationship with consumers and own major advertising platforms, so just their advertising business will be less impacted while their competition could be decimated,” said Blodwell.

CMA investigations are ongoing and Google has yet to respond publicly to the developments.

News of the CMA investigation into how Google’s Privacy Sandbox works could potentially favor its own ad stack, a few weeks later Texas Attorney General filed antitrust lawsuit against Google, citing fears that its ad stack unfairly favors its own operations over potential competitors.

Confidentiality and commercial interests

Since its inception, Google has attempted to validate Privacy Sandbox by participating in the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), a global technology standards body that counts Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the Internet, among its top executives.

Here, various parties such as academics, software engineers as well as representatives of ad-supported commercial interests, including Google and (to a lesser extent) its smaller rivals, debate the merits of such proposals.

Several sources told Adweek that the privacy lobby within W3C is increasingly suspicious of the business interests of its members. Indeed, some suggest that this alleged prejudice is at the origin of the failure of a Google candidate – among others representing advertising interests – not to win the influencer election. Technical architecture group last week.

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