Google offers UK watchdog role in browser cookie phase-out

Google offers UK watchdog role in browser cookie phase-out


London: Google is offering a role to British regulators to oversee its phasing out of ad tracking technology from Chrome browser, a package of promises that the tech giant proposes to apply globally to prevent competition investigations.

The UK competition watchdog has been investigating Google’s proposal to delete so-called third-party cookies because of concerns that they will disrupt digital advertising competition and consolidate the company’s market power.

To address the concerns, Google on Friday offered a set of commitments including giving the Competition and Markets Authority an oversight role as the company designs and develops a replacement technology.

“The emergence of tech giants such as Google has presented competition authorities around the world with new challenges that require a new approach,” Andrea Coscelli, the watchdog’s chief executive, said.

The Competition and Markets Authority will work with tech companies to “shape their behaviour and protect competition to the benefit of consumers,” he said.

Google’s promises also include “substantial limits” on how Google will use and combine individual user data for digital ad purposes and a pledge not to discriminate against rivals in favor of its own ad businesses with the new technology.

The company stated in a blog post that if Google’s promises are accepted, they will be applied globally.

Third-party cookies-code snippets that record user information-are used to help companies target advertisements and fund free online content, such as newspapers, more effectively. However, they have also been a long-term source of privacy issues because they can be used to track users on the Internet.

Google’s plan to cancel third-party cookies has shaken the digital advertising industry, which has raised concerns that new technologies will leave less room for online advertising competitors. The plan involves replacing “personal identifiers” with technologies that hide users in large online groups based on user interests, while keeping web browsing history on the device to protect privacy.

The competition watchdog will seek feedback until July from other players in the tech and digital ad industry on Google’s commitments. Then it will decide whether to accept Google’s offer and close the competition case.

Google has been busy grappling with a wave tide of antitrust investigations in Europe. The U.K. offer comes days after it resolved another case involving its digital ad business, when it agreed to pay a 220 million euro ($268 million) to France’s antitrust watchdog for abusing its ‘dominant’ position in online advertising.

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