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CMA secures Obligations from Google on future of cookies

The Competition and Markets Authority is opening a consultation on commitments offered to it by Google to ensure its Privacy Sandbox proposals do not harm digital advertising markets By Alex Scroxton, Security Editor Published: 11 Jun 2021 14:15 The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has secured a number of commitments from Google on the design…

The Competition and Markets Authority is opening a consultation on responsibilities provided for it by Google to ensure its Privacy Sandbox proposals don’t hurt electronic marketing niches

Alex Scroxton

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Published: 11 Jun 2021 14: 15

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has procured a number of responsibilities from Google on the design and development of its Privacy Sandbox suggestions for the replacement of third party cookies from the Chrome web browser, and will now consult with different stakeholders on whether or not to accept these .

This comes following an enforcement action launched against Google at the start of 2021, after companies and other businesses complained that Privacy Sandbox — the suggested replacement for third party biscuits, which can be due to be phased out of its Chrome browser later in the year — might be developed and implemented in ways that actually impede competition in electronic advertising markets.

Among the issues were that the proposals can cause advertisements spend to become even more focused with Google, hurting consumers and undermining the ability of organisations such as online publishers to create income.

“The emergence of tech giants such as Google has presented competition authorities around the world with new challenges that require a new approach,” said CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli.

“That’s why the CMA is taking a leading role in setting out how we can work with the most powerful tech firms to shape their behaviour and protect competition to the benefit of consumers.

“If approved, the responsibilities we’ve obtained from Google become legally binding, boosting competition in digital markets, helping to defend the capability of online publishers to raise money through advertising and safeguarding users’ privacy.”

The commitments secured by the CMA — which has been working closely along with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) throughout — are as follows:

  • That Google will develop and implement the Privacy Sandbox proposals in a way that prevents distortion to competition and the imposition of unfair terms on Chrome users, and that the CMA and ICO will be involved in the development of suggestions to ensure that this aim is met;
  • That Google provides enhanced transparency on the way and when the Privacy Sandbox suggestions will move forward and on what basis They’ll Be evaluated, including a commitment to publish the results of tests of how effective alternative technologies could be;
  • That Google will take”substantial” limits on how it uses and combines individual user information for the purposes of electronic advertisements once third party cookies are removed from Chrome;
  • That Google will not discriminate against rivals in favor of its own advertisements and adtech companies when designing or implementing Privacy Sandbox.
  • And Google will accept a standstill period of at least 60 days before it proceeds to get rid of third-party cookies from Chrome, providing the CMA the opportunity to reopen investigations or impose interim steps to protect competition if necessary.

In its consultation, the CMA said that it was especially interested in hearing any opinions regarding whether Google’s proposed responsibilities satisfactorily address its own concerns about unequal access to user-tracking functionality, self-preferencing Google’s own adtech surgeries and its owned and operated ad stock, along with the potential imposition of unfair terms on Chrome users.

The CMA’s ultimate decision is likely to have a considerable impact on the execution of Google’s Privacy Sandbox on a worldwide basis. According to statistics supplied by AtlasVPN, right to 26 May 2021, Chrome has roughly 3. 26 billion net users, or 41percent of the global population, which makes it the most popular web browser on the planet by a country mile; its closest rival, Apple’s Safari, may muster only 944.6 million consumers; followed by Firefox with 181.4 million; and Microsoft Edge with 171.3 million.

Farhad Divecha, managing director and founder of AccuraCast, a digital marketing agency, said:”The call from the CMA is good news for advertisers because Google has been very vague with advertisers about how these cookie changes will affect reporting, targeting and optimisation within the Google Ads and DV 360 platforms.

“All [Google’s] media round the matter focuses on its own solitude spiel, which can be good and well, but then it has Google Tag Manager server-side, which could possibly bypass all of the restrictions imposed by cookie blockers; it’s FLoC, which seems like that nebulous concept of a remarketing/lookalike viewer to the majority of advertisers and continues to be criticised by smaller publishers; also it has Project Turtledove.  

“But what Google hasn’t yet done is tell advertisers clearly what they need to do to prepare for a cookieless future,” explained Divecha. “This is especially stark in contrast to Facebook which set up Conversions API, have extensive documentation to prepare advertisers for IDFA and cookie changes, and have even invested a lot of money to help ensure its advertisers can minimise the impact of these changes.”

In a statement reacting to the CMA’s announcement, Google’s director of legal, Oliver Bethell, said:”From the start of this project, we have been developing these tools in the start, and sought feedback at ev

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