It has been announced that a group of large German publishers and advertisers have filed a formal complaint with the European Commission against Google’s “Privacy Sandbox” proposals.
The Privacy Sandbox is the name given by Google to a group of proposed browser changes to the Chrome browser and Blink/Chromium browser engine. The proposals include blocking third-party cookies, introducing “cohort-based” marketing, and blocking access to the user agent string and IP address.
Google claims that the changes are needed to create a more private web. However, there have been complaints that the proposals, if implemented, will harm Google’s competitors, by blocking their access to certain key, interoperable data which Google will either have continued access to, or will have access to equivalent data through its range of owned and operated platforms and services.
In particular, the German complaint reportedly argues that the proposals will harm the publishers’ and advertisers’ businesses, while Google’s own ads-based search business will be unaffected, and that Google should respect the relationship between publishers and users without interfering, i.e. that Google should allow publishers to process certain consumer data, where consumer consent has been obtained.
Preiskel & Co’s competition team has been advising the Movement for an Open Web, a consortium of affected businesses, in relation to complaints to the UK Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) and the European Commission about the proposals. The complaint resulted in the CMA opening an investigation into the proposals in January 2021, which remains ongoing, with the CMA currently considering consultation responses on commitments offered by Google to address the CMA’s preliminary competition concerns. The project saw the team named The Lawyer Awards Competition and Regulatory Team of the Year 2021.
The European Commission has already opened an investigation into Google’s advertising business; whether it will open another into the Privacy Sandbox remains to be seen.
For more information, the German publishers’ and advertisers’ press statement can be found here.
Please contact Tim Cowen if you have any questions about the Privacy Sandbox, the CMA’s investigation, or the European Commission complaints.