UK competition body investigating Google privacy plan to ditch third-party cookies from Chrome

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched an inquiry into Google’s plan to remove third-party cookies from its Chrome browser over fears the move will have a “significant impact” on the digital ad market.

Google plans, through its ‘Privacy Sandbox’ proposals, to end support for all cookies except for those that track user activity within a company’s own site, and replace tracking tools with a system that limits and anonymises the information advertisers receive from consumers.

The UK investigation will focus on how the new changes could impact advertising spending, and whether the proposed plan will increase Google’s ad market share at the expense of competitors.

The probe comes amid increased focus from competition watchdogs on Google and other top tech companies, and ahead of the creation of a new Digital Markets Unit by the UK government. However, it will be the CMA’s first case since taking responsibility for national oversight after the UK’s exit from the EU.

Small tech companies fear that their revenues could drop by two-thirds following the tech giant’s move, and claim Google could secure too much power in controlling the way websites are able to be monetised and operated if the changes go through as planned.

CMA chief Andrea Coscelli said that “Google’s Privacy Sandbox proposals will potentially have a very significant impact on publishers like newspapers, and the digital advertising market,” but that privacy concerns also have to be weighed up.

When news of a potential investigation was reported last month, Google argued that “The ad-supported web is at risk if digital advertising practices don’t evolve to reflect people’s changing expectations around how data is collected and used.”

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