CMA consults on new commitments regarding Google’s Privacy Sandbox

November 30, 2021

The CMA has announced that Google has made new commitments on its proposals to remove third party cookies and other functionalities from its Chrome browser.

It has been investigating Google’s proposals since the start of the year, due to concerns that Google’s alternatives could be developed and implemented in ways that impede competition in digital advertising markets. The CMA says that this may cause advertising spending to become more concentrated on Google, harming consumers who ultimately pay for the cost of advertising. It may also undermine the ability of online publishers, such as newspapers, to generate revenue and continue to produce valuable content in the future, reducing choice for consumers.

The CMA’s intervention, and the new commitments, are designed to ensure that Google’s proposals can improve privacy without adversely affecting competition, which would be to the detriment of users.

In June 2021, the CMA consulted on initial commitments offered by Google, which provided the CMA with a key oversight role in the design and development of its Privacy Sandbox proposals. Google announced that if the CMA accepted those commitments, Google would apply them globally. Following consultation there were outstanding concerns. To address these points Google has now offered to:

  • ensure that the CMA’s role and the ongoing CMA process are mentioned in Google’s key public announcements;
  • instruct its staff not to make claims to customers which contradict the commitments;
  • report regularly to the CMA on how Google has taken account of third party views;
  • address concerns about Google removing functionality or information before the full Privacy Sandbox changes, including by delaying enforcement of its Privacy Budget proposal, and offering commitments around the introduction of measures to reduce access to IP addresses;
  • clarify the internal limits on the data that Google can use;
  • provide greater certainty to third parties developing alternative technologies;
  • improve the provisions on reporting and compliance, including by appointing a CMA-approved monitoring trustee; and
  • provide for a longer duration of six years from the date of any decision to accept Google’s modified commitments.

The CMA’s provisional view is that Google’s revised offer addresses the CMA’s competition concerns, so the CMA is now consulting on these modifications.  The consultation ends on 17 December 2021. If the commitments are accepted, the CMA will close its investigation, although it will continue oversight work.