According to a proposal released on Friday, without the approval of the British competition regulator, Alphabet’s Google will not be able to eliminate user tracking technology important to advertisers from its Chrome browser.
The company stated that it is pleased to have the opportunity to work with regulators to coordinate privacy and competition issues.
The Competition and Markets Authority began reviewing Google’s plan to reduce support for certain cookies in Chrome as early as next year in January.
Companies in the US$250 billion global online display advertising industry expressed concern that the loss of cookies in the world’s most popular browsers would damage their ability to collect information for personalized advertising and make them more dependent on Google’s user database.
In a series of commitments announced by the CMA on Friday, Google will allow regulators to closely participate in a project called “Privacy Sandbox” to develop alternative tracking technologies. These commitments will accept public comment before July 8.
Google said that users increasingly want the Internet to be more private. But some advertising cookies allow tracking of consumers’ web browsing in a way that is related to some of them.
Although Google said last year that its potential cookie alternatives would better protect users’ privacy, British investigators found that they would also “distort competition in online advertising” and “allow Google to take advantage of its apparent dominance.”
A potential alternative, called FLoC, is being tested among 0.5% of Chrome users, and the CMA points out the ways in which it can give Google an advantage over competitors.
Google said that it will work hard to ensure that any content that appears in the privacy sandbox does not give it an unfair advantage.
CMA CEO Andrea Coscelli said that regulators are “playing a leading role” in formulating how to work with powerful technology companies to shape their behavior and protect competition.
Tim Cowan, the antitrust chairman of the law firm Preiskel & Co and a Google critic, told Reuters that Google has a record of toothless promises, citing an example recently provided to the French competition authority.
“If promises are made to the CMA, they need to look at them very carefully-make sure they are actually useful-and change Google’s behavior,” he said.
© Thomson Reuters 2021