“We Will Play By The Same Rules”: Google Says No To Self-Preferencing Ahead Of Third-Party Cookie Removal

Seattle, USA - Oct 15, 2019: The entrance sign to the new Google building in the south lake union area at sunset.
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Google says it will not conduct any self-preferencing for its advertising products ahead of the removal of third-party cookies on Chrome next year.

The announcement came as the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) revealed Google had committed to address key concerns about the upcoming changes.

The CMA launched enforcement action against Google earlier this year after concerns were raised around how the removal of cookies would impact competition in the digital advertising space.

“The CMA was concerned that, without regulatory oversight and scrutiny, Google’s alternatives could be developed and implemented in ways that impede competition in digital advertising markets,” the competition watchdog said in a statement..

“This would cause advertising spending to become even more concentrated on Google, harming consumers who ultimately pay for the cost of advertising. It would also undermine the ability of online publishers such as newspapers to generate revenue and continue to produce valuable content in the future.”

Under the new agreement, Google and the CMA will work together to develop a digital advertising framework that neither relies on cookies or provides Google with an unfair advantage.

“Today we are offering a set of commitments — the result of many hours of discussions with the CMA and more generally with the broader web community — about how we’ll design and implement the Privacy Sandbox proposals and treat user data in Google’s systems in the years ahead,” said Google director, legal, Oliver Bethell.

“The CMA is now asking others in the industry for feedback on these commitments as part of a public consultation, with a view to making them legally binding. If the CMA accepts these commitments, we will apply them globally.”

The commitments include; not distorting competition; increased transparency around the effectiveness of technologies; limits on how Google will use and combine user data and a standstill period of 60 days before Google proceeds with the removal of third-party cookies giving the CMA the opportunity to reopen its investigation.

Bethell explicitly said Google would not be conducting any self-preferencing following the removal of third-party cookies.

“We will play by the same rules as everybody else because we believe in competition on the merits. Our commitments make clear that, as the Privacy Sandbox proposals are developed and implemented, that work will not give preferential treatment or advantage to Google’s advertising products or to Google’s own sites,” he said.

As well as not building any alternate identifiers to track individuals as they navigate the web, Google also will not be using its data to map users.

“The commitments confirm that once third-party cookies are phased out, our ads products will not access synced Chrome browsing histories (or data from other user-facing Google products) in order to track users to target or measure ads on sites across the web,” Bethell said.

“Further, our ads products will also not access synced Chrome browsing histories or publishers’ Google Analytics accounts to track users for targeting and measuring ads on our own sites, such as Google Search.”

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