Google’s privateness push attracts US antitrust scrutiny, Advertising & Promoting Information, ET BrandEquity
The data protection push from Google leads to an antitrust investigation in the USA.Google’s plan to block a popular web tracking tool called “cookies” is of concern to Justice Department investigators, who have asked advertising industry executives whether the search giant’s move will hamper its smaller competitors, according to the one with the People familiar with the situation.
Google from Alphabet Inc. announced a year ago that it would ban some cookies in its Chrome browser in order to improve user privacy. Over the past two months, Google has released more details and has led leading online ad competitors to complain about the loss of the data collection tool.
Investigators ask if Google is using Chrome, which has a 60% global market share, to reduce competition by preventing competing advertising companies from tracking users through cookies and gaps for collecting data using cookies, analytics tools, and others Leaving sources behind.
The recent talks, which have not yet been reported, are a sign that officials are pursuing Google’s projects in the global online advertising market, where they and Facebook Inc. No. 2 control approximately 54% of sales.
The ad request may not result in legal action.
Executives from more than a dozen companies across a variety of industries have spoken to Justice Department investigators, one of the sources said.
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The government has been investigating Google’s search and advertising business since mid-2019 and sued Google last October for allegedly using anti-competitive tactics to maintain its search engine dominance. Google’s advertising practices continued to be investigated.
Investigators have also asked rivals if they encountered behavior similar to or worse than the advertising-related allegations brought by attorneys general from Texas and other states in a lawsuit against Google last December.
The Justice Department declined to comment on the story.
Defending its moves in the advertising business, Google said it helps businesses grow and protects user privacy from exploitative practices.
A spokeswoman pointed out a leading Google alternative to cookies, the so-called privacy sandbox, which companies can use, among other things, to address consumer clusters without identifying people. “We’re not going to replace third-party cookies with alternative methods of tracking individuals on the Internet,” she said.
If the Department of Justice complains of advertising-related behavior, it could file a new lawsuit or join the Texas case, one of the sources said. However, antitrust litigation experts said the department also has time to amend its existing complaint to include the ad tech concerns.
Texas on Tuesday amended its complaint to include allegations that upcoming changes to Chrome are “anti-competitive because they increase entry barriers and exclude competition.”
“We do not believe that tracking people on the Internet will stand the test of time as concerns about data protection continue to intensify,” said Jerry Dischler, vice president of advertising services at Google, at an industry conference last week.
However, smaller competitors are rejecting the privacy principles used by large companies like Google and Apple Inc. to limit tracking because they would continue to collect valuable data and potentially generate even more advertising revenue.
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“There is a weapon of privacy to justify business decisions that cement the power of your business and penalize the broader market,” said Chad Engelgau, executive director of the Acxiom advertising data unit of the Interpublic Group of Companies Inc.
The French competition authority temporarily allowed Apple to introduce new tracking limits on Wednesday as privacy protection took precedence over competition concerns. The UK competition and market regulator is expected to soon decide whether to block the upcoming Chrome changes.
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