Advertising: why London is investigating the changes Google is planning on Chrome?

by bold-lichterman

The British competition gendarme announced Friday the opening of an investigation against Google, fearing that planned changes to its Chrome browser will strengthen its dominance in online advertising. Google announced in early 2020 to give itself two years to eliminate third-party cookies from its market-leading browser. A giant in online advertising, Google plans to use this reprieve to develop and offer advertisers its “Privacy sandbox” program.

However, cookies, electronic identification modules which track Internet users, are admittedly denounced by privacy activists but “Play a fundamental role in online advertising”, noted in a press release the competition authority, the CMA (Competition and Markets Authority). They help businesses target their advertisements effectively and therefore fund free online content especially for newspaper titles.

Google would like to allow advertisers to target and measure advertising campaigns without resorting to cookies, but remains unclear how to achieve this, which could lead to an even greater stranglehold of the American group on the market. “Google’s Privacy Sandbox project will potentially have a very significant impact on publishing businesses such as newspaper titles, and on the online advertising market.”, underlines Andrea Coscelli, Director General of the CMA.

Defense of privacy?

The argument made by Google, when it unveiled its proposals a year ago, was to strengthen the defense of privacy. The American giant has pledged to launch consultations before making any changes in 2022 as it has planned. “Creating a more private internet while encouraging publishers and advertisers who champion a free and open internet requires major changes in the industry to the way online advertising works”, estimates a spokesperson for Google, specifying to welcome the announcement of the CMA.

The latter specifies having an open mind and not yet having a position at this stage on a possible violation of competition laws. She continues to work with Google while the project is in development. The possible changes in online advertising come as Google is regularly accused by the press of profiting from its content without sharing the revenue.

To alleviate this problem, the EU introduced in 2019 a “neighboring right” which provides for the remuneration of press editors. After reluctance, Google signed agreements with French newspapers in November to remunerate the use of their content, a world first.