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What you need to know

  • The UK's Competition and Markets Authority is launching a probe into Google's proposal to remove third-party cookies from Chrome.
  • The investigation will assess whether the proposed changes could restrict rival digital advertising.
  • Some browsers such as Mozilla's Firefox and Apple's Safari already block third-party cookies.

The UK's competition watchdog today announced that it has started an investigation into Google's proposal to block third-party cookies in its Chrome web browser (via Reuters). Its investigation will assess whether the move could "curb rival digital advertising."

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) says it has an open mind and hasn't reached any conclusions at this stage as to whether or not Google has infringed upon the competition law. However, the CMA found in a recent market study that Google's proposed "Privacy Sandbox" changes may have a "very significant impact" on the digital advertising market and on publishers such as newspapers.

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Google introduced the "Privacy Sandbox" project in 2019 to increase privacy while ensuring personalized ads can still be allowed. To do this, Google plans to phase out the use of third-party cookies entirely and replace them with trust tokens. While Google won't begin blocking third-party cookies in its Chrome browser before 2022, Safari and Firefox have already blocked them.

In a statement sent to Reuters, a Google spokeswoman said:

Creating a more private web, while also enabling the publishers and advertisers who support the free and open internet, requires the industry to make major changes to the way digital advertising works. We welcome the CMA's involvement as we work to develop new proposals to underpin a healthy, ad-supported web without third-party cookies.

The CMA had received complaints from Marketers for an Open Web (MOW), which is a coalition of tech and publishing companies. The coalition has alleged that Google is "abusing its dominant position" with the proposal.

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