Google commits to work with UK regulator on plan to drop browser cookies

A Google Chrome lapel pin

Stephen Shankland/CNET

Britain’s competition regulator will have a say in Google’s plan to phase out third-party cookies in Chrome. On Friday, the Competition and Markets Authority said it’s reviewing several commitments from Google designed to ensure that its web privacy efforts won’t impede competition in digital ad markets. 

Last year, Google said it will gradually remove third-party cookies, little bits of code that can let advertisers track user history across the web. The move is part of the search giant’s push toward a privacy sandbox, which is designed to let publishers target ads based on people’s interests without infringing on privacy. 

However, the CMA, as well as regulators in the US, were concerned the privacy push could harm newspapers and other businesses that rely on personalized online ads. The commitments from Google come after enforcement actions the CMA launched against the tech giant in January. 

The commitments from Google include increased transparency around timelines, limits on how Google will use individual user data for ads and a promise not to give preferential treatment to its own ad products or sites. If accepted by the CMA, the commitments will become legally binding, the authority said. Google said it would apply them globally. 

“We believe that these kinds of investments in privacy will create more opportunity, not less,” Oliver Bethell, director of Legal at Google, wrote in a blog post. “The Privacy Sandbox seeks a way forward that improves people’s privacy online while ensuring that advertisers and publishers of all sizes can continue to succeed.”

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