The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has secured “legally binding” commitments from Google to address competition concerns over its Privacy Sandbox.
Today’s (11 February) news follows the fast-moving adtech events in November, when Google agreed with the UK regulators that its Chrome browser (i.e., these Privacy Sandbox proposals) needs to be developed in a way that works for the entire ecosystem.
Andrea Coscelli, the CMA’s Chief Executive, notes today: “While this is an important step, we are under no illusions that our work is done. We now move into a new phase where we will keep a close eye on Google as it continues to develop these proposals.”
The CMA’s competition investigation was launched in January 2021 over concerns that the proposals would cause online advertising spending to become even more concentrated on Google, weakening competition and so harming consumers who ultimately pay for the cost of online advertising.
The CMA is working with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to oversee the development of the proposals, so that they protect privacy without unduly restricting competition and harming consumers.
The commitments from Google include the involvement of the CMA and the ICO in the development and testing of the Privacy Sandbox proposals; and that Google will engage third parties and publish test results.
Google will not remove third-party cookies until the CMA is satisfied that its competition concerns have been addressed. If the CMA is not satisfied that its competition concerns have been addressed, the CMA may take further action (i.e., re-open its investigation, impose interim measures or proceed to a decision).
A Monitoring Trustee will be appointed to work alongside the CMA to ensure the commitments are monitored effectively and Google complies with its obligations. This appointment is expected to be made shortly.
Google has published a blog post today about its obligations and its version of the events.
The tech giant explains: “Google’s aim with the Privacy Sandbox is to improve web privacy for people around the world, while also giving publishers, creators and other developers the tools they need to build thriving businesses.”
In other news, and in December, the CMA launched a probe into Apple and Google as the regulator reckons their duopoly limits competition and choice.
The probe’s chief goal was to investigate concerns that the tech titans possess too much control over the mobile space through their app stores, web browsers and operating systems (OS). In a December 2021 interim report, the CMA suggests this level of control and power could be potentially detrimental to users.