A group of digital marketing companies and others have filed a formal protest with the European Union’s antitrust authorities in opposition to Google’s plan to gradually phase out monitoring cookies in favor of substitute technologies, which the tech giant argues will preserve user privacy.
The anonymous group pushing the complaint, now known as the self-styled Movement for an Open Web (MOW) (RIP Marketers for an Open Web), released a statement today announcing the decision and asserting that it has given the Commission proof of Google’s technological changes, how they affect choice and competition, and suggested some potential remedies.
To get their thoughts on the allegation, Google and the Commission have been contacted.
This summer, EU regulators finally began looking into Google’s adtech, announcing an extensive investigation in June that would involve looking into the Privacy Sandbox plan.
In order to enable privacy and competition assessments to be made by the EU and data protection authorities in line with Google’s proposed remedy to the UK’s Competition and Market Authority and Information Commissioner’s Office, MOW’s proposed remedies to EU regulators include requirements that Google should notify the EU in advance of any changes to its browser (Chrome/Chromium).
Thus, you can see the peculiar sight of a campaign that appeared to be launched by a group of marketers advocating for user privacy; but of course they would say that wouldn’t they given the EU has already flagged user privacy as one of the areas its antitrust probe will be taking into account. (Also working together on the Privacy Sandbox complaint is the UK’s CMA and Information Commissioners Office.)
Notably, aside from James Rosewell, the organisation’s director, MOWs website still withholds information about the members of this anti-Google-Privacy-Sandbox/pro-tracking-cookie group (co-founder of UK mobile marketing company, 51 Degrees ).
Instead, it says that MOW is funded by companies that collectively generate $40BN in yearly sales. The name was modified because more companies—not just marketing firms—are becoming aware of the danger posed by Privacy Sandbox and the advantages of supporting the MOW campaign.
It’s possible that the MOW has expanded its membership to include organizations who genuinely care about user privacy rather than just doing so for a quick buck. But it is impossible to know because it won’t reveal its membership.
In response to the complaint, Rosewell issued a statement stating that the internet was initially intended to be an open environment free from centralized management. Google claims that these changes are being made to preserve privacy, but if the changes are not adequately policed, they could have a negative impact on digital media, online privacy, and innovation.
It is necessary to find solutions that are in line with the law rather than ones that benefit Big Tech companies like Google at the expense of others. No one’s privacy is improved by more people giving their personal information to fewer firms, restricting competition, and increasing their already enormous profits.
We are requesting that the EU Commission establish equal playing conditions for all digital enterprises in order to maintain and defend an open web, said attorney Tim Cowen, who is identified as a legal advisor to MOW and chair of the antitrust practice at Preiskel andamp; Co LLP. Google claims to be enhancing user privacy, but in reality, they are only proposing a disturbing data mining party.
Google already announced in June that it would take longer to move away from monitoring cookies due to continuing discussions with the UK’s antitrust commission, delaying the implementation of Privacy Sandbox.
Additionally, it has an offered not to phase out tracking cookies rating until and until the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority is satisfied that the move to alternative technologies can be made in a way that safeguards both privacy and competition.
In order to pursue a wider, pan-European freeze on Google’s Privacy Sandbox play rather than only obtaining some UK-specific checks and balances, MOW apparently detects blood snooping as an opportunity.
When asked if he thinks the Commission will be sympathetic to MOW’s complaint, privacy researcher and consultant Dr Lukasz Olejnik said to TechCrunch: “I might imagine that this new complaint could constitute a case in point.” The Commission is presently conducting its own inquiry. The probe might just snowball because anti-competition cases in technology are often slow-moving.
The European Data Protection Supervisor previously noted possible connections between privacy and competition. Then came opinions and actions. He also informed us that it is true that EU Competition regulators prioritize their own ideals over privacy.
In fact, I seriously doubt that any competition regulator at the global level would be balancing the two. They ought to view it as a component of society and technology, in my opinion. Maybe it’ll happen to some extent. While the UK CMA and ICO are in touch, it is unknown if the EC and EDPS are as well about the most recent probe.
There are multiple parties interested in this tale who may see a quick win if the bloc can be persuaded to quickly adopt much the same framework, providing the CMA also agrees to it, given that Google has already proposed a number of legally binding pledges to the UK’s CMA around Privacy Sandbox.
The simplest course of action, in my opinion, would be to copy and paste the pledges given to CMA, make a few minor changes, and give them to the EU. I’m unsure if things would go so well in this case. Olejnik concurred, saying that it is evident that Google wants to get rid of this potential barrier as soon as possible.
It is obvious that there are other significant factors that may contribute to consumer harm in addition to market behavior. Standards for privacy and data protection, for instance, he continued.