Google Must Fix Third-Party Cookie Competition Concerns Identified By UK CMA

Google must address the recent concerns raised around its proposed Privacy Sandbox changes before it can move forward to deprecate third-party cookies from Chrome in the second half of 2024, according to the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

The CMA published a report stating "Google cannot proceed with third-party cookie deprecation until our concerns are resolved." It called this time of review a "standstill period," where it will work with Google to assess the changes. Once resolved, Google can move forward and "deprecate third-party cookies in the second half of 2024."

The assessment will combine all available testing results provided by Google and third parties, along with any assurances that Google will resolve any remaining competition concerns.

Concerns and potential impacts are outlined in the latest report from the CMA, which will work with Google to resolve any concerns related to the design of the Privacy Sandbox tools and to ensure that Google does not use the tools in a way that self-preferences its own advertising services. 



Other concerns include the potential for Google to benefit from user-activity data while limiting competitors’ access to the same data, and controlling the inclusion of ad-tech rivals on this list could provide an advantage its ad-tech services. In addition, there may be issues arising from the more limited ability of publishers and advertisers to effectively identify fraudulent activity

Privacy Sandbox was introduced as an alternative to third-party cookie tracking in the Chrome browser. It aims to minimize cross-site and cross-app tracking. Google had proposed Privacy Sandbox changes based on the framework and commitments in February 2022 to address competition concerns relating to its proposals to remove third-party cookies from Chrome.

Anthony Katsur, CEO of IAB Tech Lab, expects the advertising industry to go through a radical period of transformation through 2025. There will be major ramifications around "signal loss," as Katsur refers to it, as major companies strip information from browsers.

Privacy Sandbox is one initiative that is driving the change.

"You’re going to hear the term 'signal loss' frequently this year,” Katsur says. He explains that the term drove much of the 2024 road map for IAB Tech Lab. It’s all tied into the deprecation of cookies, protecting IP address and continued development on the regulatory landscape worldwide. By 2025, 11 U.S. states will have privacy regulations, he said.

The CMA may require a delay to resolve its concerns, which may become a blessing for brands falling behind in implementing the processes. IAB Tech Lab has been working with agencies and brands to help them operate in a world without browser cookies. Katsur said in late January that the IAB Tech Labs Privacy Sandbox working group will review learnings for accuracy with Google, and plans to publish the analysis in early February.

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