The UK competition authority has a say in Google’s plan to remove browser cookies


The Google Chrome logo that appears on a smartphone.

Thomas Trutschel | Photo library via Getty Images

LONDON – The UK competition authority will have a say in Google’s plan to remove third-party browser cookies that are tracking people online.

The competition and market regulator announced on Friday that it had received commitments from Google to address concerns about the proposal. The CMA fears the plans will harm newspapers and other businesses that rely on personalized ads.

Web cookies are small pieces of code that websites deliver to a visitor’s browser. They can be used to track online activity, such as: B. Items added to a shopping cart. Third-party cookies are often added by advertisers to provide people with personalized advertising.

Google plans to remove third-party cookies from their Chrome browser and replace them with an alternative. The company launched an initiative called “Privacy Sandbox” last year to address privacy concerns with cookies. One of the proposals that Google is convinced of is called “Federated Learning of Cohorts”. The CMA opened a formal investigation into the changes in January.

Google is committed to involving the CMA and the Information Commissioner’s Office, the UK’s data protection commissioner, in developing its privacy sandbox proposals. The company promised to publicly announce the results of tests on the effectiveness of alternatives and said it would not give any preferential treatment to Google’s promotional products or websites.

“If accepted, the promises we received from Google will become legally binding, promote competition in digital markets, help protect online publishers’ ability to raise money through advertising, and protect privacy the user, “said Andrea Cocelli, CEO of the CMA said in a statement.

The CMA said it will consult “interested third parties” before deciding whether to accept Google’s commitments. If accepted, the watchdog would stop its enforcement case and exchange the details of its proposals with Google.

“We appreciate the CMA’s prudent approach throughout the review and their commitment to the difficult trade-offs that inevitably involves,” said Oliver Bethell, Google’s legal director, in a blog post.

“We also welcome feedback from the public consultation and will continue to work with the CMA and industry on this important issue,” added Bethell. “We understand our plans are being scrutinized, so we will continue to work with other regulators, industry partners and privacy experts.”

The move is the latest sign of the CMA’s growing role in scrutinizing large U.S. tech firms – facing antitrust investigations around the world – after Brexit. The watchdog has been tasked by the government with setting up a new Digital Markets Unit to monitor competition in the UK digital market.

Last week, the UK and the European Union launched two separate competition investigations on Facebook on the same day. Meanwhile, Apple is also confronted with antitrust investigations in the UK and Europe.


Katherine Clark