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CMA secures 'improved' pledge from Google on ad competition concerns

Fri 26 November 2021 13:00 | A A A

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(Sharecast News) - The Competition and Markets Authority announced on Friday that it had secured "improved commitments" from Alphabet subsidiary Google on its proposals to remove third-party cookies and other functions from its Chrome browser software.

It had been investigating Google's proposals since the start of the year in response to concerns that Google's plans could impede competition in digital advertising markets.

The competition watchdog said that could cause advertising spending to become even more concentrated on Google, and could also undermine the ability of online publishers such as newspapers to generate revenue and produce content.

It said its intervention, and the improved commitments, were designed to ensure that Google's proposals could improve privacy without adversely affecting competition.

In June, the CMA consulted on initial commitments offered by Google, finding that the commitments needed to be strengthened in a number of areas.

Those included increasing Google's transparency and engagement with the industry, adding that certain functionality should not be removed before third-party cookies, improving the provisions on Google self-preferencing its advertising products and services, and bolstering the monitoring of Google's compliance.

To address those points, the regulator said Google had now offered to ensure that its staff did not make claims to customers contradicting the commitments, report regularly to the CMA on how it was accounting for third party views, and address concerns around Google removing functionality or information before the full Privacy Sandbox changes.

Google also committed to clarify the internal limits on the data it uses, provide "greater certainty" to third parties developing alternative technologies, improve its reporting and compliance provisions, including by appointing a CMA-approved monitoring trustee, provide for a longer duration of six years from the date of any decision to accept Google's modified commitments.

The CMA said its provisional view was that Google's revised offer addressed its competition concerns, and it would now consult on the modifications.

"We have always been clear that Google's efforts to protect user's privacy cannot come at the cost of reduced competition," said CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli.

"That's why we have worked with the Information Commissioner's Office, the CMA's international counterparts and parties across this sector throughout this process to secure an outcome that works for everyone.

"If accepted, the commitments we have obtained from Google become legally binding, promoting competition in digital markets, helping to protect the ability of online publishers to raise money through advertising and safeguarding users' privacy."

The CMA said it would consult on the new commitments until 1700 GMT on 17 December, and if accepted, the commitments would result in the closure of the watchdog's investigation.

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