Britain's competition regulator has a say in Google's plan to remove browser cookies that track people online, and the Competition and Markets Authority said it had secured commitments from Google to address concerns about the proposal.
The Competition and Markets Authority is concerned that the plans harm newspapers and other companies that rely on personalized advertising. Web cookies are small pieces of code that websites deliver to a visitor's browser. They can be used to track online activity, such as items added to a shopping cart, and advertisers often add third-party cookies to serve people with personalized ads.
Google plans to remove third-party cookies via the Google Chrome browser and replace them with an alternative. The company launched an initiative called Privacy Sandbox last year in an effort to address privacy concerns around cookies. One of Google's proposals is called FLoC. The Competition and Markets Authority launched an official investigation into the changes in January.
Google is committed to engaging the Competition and Markets Authority and the Information Commissioner's Office in developing the Privacy Sandbox proposals. The company promised to publicly disclose the results of any tests of the efficacy of the alternatives. It said it would not give preferential treatment to Google's advertising products or sites.
Google's plans under the microscope
Andrea Coseli, CEO of the Competition and Markets Authority said, if accepted, the commitments we got from Google would become legally binding, boosting competition in digital markets, helping protect online publishers’ ability to raise money through advertising, and protecting user's privacy.
The Competition and Markets Authority said: It consults with interested third parties before deciding whether to accept Google's obligations. If approved, the Competition and Markets Authority drops the lawsuit and contacts Google about the details of its proposals.
Google said, we appreciate the CMA's thoughtful approach throughout the review period and its involvement in the difficult trade-offs involved in this process. We also welcome feedback from public consultations and continue to engage with the Competition and Markets Authority and with the industry on this important topic. We understand that our plans are being scrutinized, so we also continue to engage with other regulators, industry partners, and privacy experts as well.
The move is the latest sign of the Competition and Markets Authority's growing role in scrutinizing major US tech companies which face antitrust investigations worldwide after Brexit. The watchdog has been mandated by the government to set up a new digital markets unit to monitor competition in the UK internet market.
Last week, the United Kingdom and the European Union launched separate investigations against Facebook on the same day. Apple also faces antitrust investigations in Britain and Europe.