Google’s Privacy Sandbox Passes Regulatory Concerns in UK

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CMA now moves into the next phase where it will supervise Google to ensure the Privacy Sandbox is developed in a way that benefits consumers.

The Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) 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 was also concerned that the proposals could undermine the ability of online publishers, such as newspapers, to generate revenue and continue to produce valuable content in the future – reducing the public’s choice of news sources.

The final commitments accepted by the CMA are a result of an in-depth investigation and extensive engagement with Google and market participants, including 2 formal public consultations. They address the CMA’s competition concerns and Google has also said that the commitments will be rolled out globally.

The CMA is working closely 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.

You can read the full list of commitments but they include:

  • Involvement of the CMA and the ICO in the development and testing of the Privacy Sandbox proposals, to ensure they achieve effective outcomes for consumers to protect both competition and privacy;
  • Google will engage in a more transparent process than initially proposed, including engagement with third parties and publishing test results, with the option for the CMA to require Google to address issues raised by the CMA or third parties;
  • 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);
  • Commitments to restrict the sharing of data within its ecosystem to ensure that it doesn’t gain an advantage over competitors when third-party cookies are removed, and commitments to not self-preference its advertising services;
  • 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.

In a company blog, Google said, ‘The aim, through this regulatory oversight and supervision, is to provide reassurance that the Privacy Sandbox will protect consumers and support a competitive ad-funded web, and not favor Google.’