Google’s plan to remove third-party cookies gets UK watchdog approvalLeigh Mc Gowranon February 14, 2022 at 14:09 Silicon RepublicSilicon Republic

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Google has received a legislation win in its plans to remove third-party cookies on its browser, as the UK’s competition authority has accepted a revised offer on Google’s ‘Privacy Sandbox’.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched an investigation in January 2021 over concerns that the Privacy Sandbox would cause online advertising spending to become even more concentrated on Google.

Following the investigation, Google has agreed to a number of legally-binding commitments. This includes a more transparent process, including engagement with third parties and publishing test results.

The tech giant also agreed to not remove third-party cookies until the CMA is satisfied that its competition concerns have been addressed.

“The commitments we have obtained from Google will promote competition, help to protect the ability of online publishers to raise money through advertising and safeguard users’ privacy,” the CMA said in a statement on Friday (11 February).

CMA CEO Andrea Coscelli said it is under “no illusions that our work is done”, as it moves into a new phase of keeping a close eye on Google as it develops the Privacy Sandbox. The competition watchdog added that it may reopen its investigation and impose “interim measures” if necessary.

Google proposed a third-party cookie ban in Chrome that was intended to come into effect in 2022, but was pushed back to 2023 after a mixed response. For the privacy conscious, the ban was a win. But for the vocal ad industry, it was potentially disastrous and has been a source of tension with Google.

Google announced the Privacy Sandbox to try balance these concerns. It’s an initiative to create technologies that both protect user privacy and give companies and developers tools to building thriving online businesses.

The CMA was also concerned during its investigation that the proposals could undermine the ability of online publishers, such as newspapers, to generate revenue and continue to produce valuable content in the future, reducing the public’s choice of news sources.

Last week, a group of major publishers filed an antitrust complaint with the EU against Google relating to its adtech “stranglehold” over press publishers and related businesses.

The group claimed that Google is “rife with conflicts of interests” in its adtech suite by representing both the buyer and seller in the same transaction while also operating the auction house in the middle and selling its own inventory.

The tech giant is still in the process of trying to balance privacy concerns with the demands of the ad industry. Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLOC) was Google’s controversial interest-based ad project that was proposed.

However, this was replaced with Topics last month, an API that runs on Chrome to place websites visited by users into categories. A developer trial of Topics with user controls will be launched on Chrome soon.

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