Google Chrome adjustments are being investigated by the UK CMA

Sundar Pichai, Senior Vice President, Chrome at Google Inc., holds up a new Chromebook Pixel as he speaks during a launch event in San Francisco, Calif., On Thursday, February 21, 2013. Google Inc., owner of The World’s Most Popular Search Engine, introduced a touchscreen version of the Chromebook laptop, challenging Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc. for hardware.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

LONDON – The UK competition authority has announced that it is investigating changes Google is planning to make to its Chrome web browser.

The competition and market regulator said Friday that Google’s plan to remove third-party cookies from Chrome could result in advertising spending being “even more focused on the Google ecosystem at the expense of competitors”.

Cookies enable companies to “follow” users on the Internet in order to provide them with personalized advertisements. They have allowed newspapers and other media companies to offer their customers free online content for years, but have also been criticized by privacy campaigners for whom they consider intrusive.

Google has announced that it will be phasing out cookies from its widely used Chrome browser by 2022 through a group of changes known as the privacy sandbox.

The CMA said it had received several complaints about how the privacy sandbox will affect competition.

“Google’s proposals on privacy in the sandbox could have a significant impact on publishers such as newspapers and the digital advertising market,” said Andrea Coscelli, executive director of the CMA, in a statement.

“However, there are also privacy concerns to be considered, so we will continue to work with the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) as we continue this investigation and will discuss our concerns directly with Google and other market participants.”

The CMA has the power to penalize Google up to 10% of its annual revenue if it determines it has violated UK competition laws. That would be around $ 4.6 billion based on Google’s 2020 revenue of $ 46 billion.

Around 80% of UK digital advertising spending of £ 14 billion (US $ 19 billion) in 2019 went to Google and Facebook, the CMA said last July.

According to the regulator, Google has over 90% share of the UK search advertising market while Facebook controls over 50% of the display advertising sector.

A Google spokesperson said, “In order to create a more private web, while empowering the publishers and advertisers who support the free and open Internet, the industry needs to make significant changes to the way digital advertising works.”

They added that Google welcomed the CMA’s involvement, saying “as we work to develop new proposals to support a healthy, ad-supported web without third-party cookies.”

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