Marketers for an Open Web ask UK competition watchdog to block launch of Google's anti-tracking Privacy Sandbox

Group claims adtech 'has nothing to do with privacy' but is rather an attempt 'to take control of the web'


Google's Privacy Sandbox took another knock today as Marketers for an Open Web (MOW) wrote to the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) requesting a block on the technology's launch.

The concept of "Privacy Sandbox" has been around for a while. The idea, when mooted in 2019, was an attempt by the Chocolate Factory to keep those advertising dollars rolling in while appeasing anyone getting a bit worried by how creepy targeted advertising was getting.

It was panned, but Google has continued to fiddle with the project and updated its proposals in January with mixed results.

MOW's concerns stem from worries that the technology will shunt tools used by advertisers from the open web into Google's Chrome "walled garden". The group cites claims by critics that "Google's new technology has nothing to do with privacy, and everything to do with moving the whole digital advertising industry off the open web."

Google is walking a tightrope with its Privacy Sandbox project. It plans to kill off support for third-party cookies in its browser, thus also killing off traditional methods for cross-site tracking. But not to worry – Google has a solution to steer customers away from the blocking technology turning up in competing browsers in favour of something that will both reassure worried users and keep the ad revenue coming in: "Privacy Sandbox."

However, by replacing some of the cookies beloved by marketers with the Privacy Sandbox, Google is inserting itself into a process that had historically been open and not under its control. "Google," claimed MOW, "is attempting to take control of the web through its dominant power to the detriment of wider society. These attempts to take control of the open web threaten digital media, online security and other digital businesses."

Google disagreed, telling us: "The ad-supported web is at risk if digital advertising practices don't evolve to reflect people's changing expectations around how data is collected and used. That's why Chrome introduced the Privacy Sandbox, an open initiative built in collaboration with the industry, to provide strong privacy for users while also supporting publishers."

The changes have yet to be made to Chrome and are still considered proposals, although the clock is most definitely ticking.

The ad slinger is keen to gather feedback on its idea.

A letter to the CMA requesting a block on the technology is possibly a little more feedback than it was hoping for. Particularly quite so soon after last month's US antitrust lawsuit launch.

As for the UK authority itself, a CMA spokesperson told The Register: "We can confirm we have received a complaint regarding Google raising certain concerns, some of which relate to those we identified in our online platforms and digital advertising market study. We take the matters raised in the complaint very seriously, and will assess them carefully with a view to deciding whether to open a formal investigation under the Competition Act. If the urgency of the concerns requires us to intervene swiftly, we will also assess whether to impose interim measures to order the suspension of any suspected anti-competitive conduct pending the outcome of a full investigation."

The CMA has a number of tools at its disposal and has already recommended the introduction of a regulatory regime to tackle the market power of Google and Facebook. It could also slap on interim measures during its investigation aimed at pausing Mountain View's privacy sandbox plans. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Makers of ad blockers and browser privacy extensions fear the end is near
    Overhaul of Chrome add-ons set for January, Google says it's for all our own good

    Special report Seven months from now, assuming all goes as planned, Google Chrome will drop support for its legacy extension platform, known as Manifest v2 (Mv2). This is significant if you use a browser extension to, for instance, filter out certain kinds of content and safeguard your privacy.

    Google's Chrome Web Store is supposed to stop accepting Mv2 extension submissions sometime this month. As of January 2023, Chrome will stop running extensions created using Mv2, with limited exceptions for enterprise versions of Chrome operating under corporate policy. And by June 2023, even enterprise versions of Chrome will prevent Mv2 extensions from running.

    The anticipated result will be fewer extensions and less innovation, according to several extension developers.

    Continue reading
  • Google has more reasons why it doesn't like antitrust law that affects Google
    It'll ruin Gmail, claims web ads giant

    Google has a fresh list of reasons why it opposes tech antitrust legislation making its way through Congress but, like others who've expressed discontent, the ad giant's complaints leave out mention of portions of the proposed law that address said gripes.

    The law bill in question is S.2992, the Senate version of the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICOA), which is closer than ever to getting votes in the House and Senate, which could see it advanced to President Biden's desk.

    AICOA prohibits tech companies above a certain size from favoring their own products and services over their competitors. It applies to businesses considered "critical trading partners," meaning the company controls access to a platform through which business users reach their customers. Google, Apple, Amazon, and Meta in one way or another seemingly fall under the scope of this US legislation. 

    Continue reading
  • I was fired for blowing the whistle on cult's status in Google unit, says contractor
    The internet giant, a doomsday religious sect, and a lawsuit in Silicon Valley

    A former Google video producer has sued the internet giant alleging he was unfairly fired for blowing the whistle on a religious sect that had all but taken over his business unit. 

    The lawsuit demands a jury trial and financial restitution for "religious discrimination, wrongful termination, retaliation and related causes of action." It alleges Peter Lubbers, director of the Google Developer Studio (GDS) film group in which 34-year-old plaintiff Kevin Lloyd worked, is not only a member of The Fellowship of Friends, the exec was influential in growing the studio into a team that, in essence, funneled money back to the fellowship.

    In his complaint [PDF], filed in a California Superior Court in Silicon Valley, Lloyd lays down a case that he was fired for expressing concerns over the fellowship's influence at Google, specifically in the GDS. When these concerns were reported to a manager, Lloyd was told to drop the issue or risk losing his job, it is claimed. 

    Continue reading
  • End of the road for biz living off free G Suite legacy edition
    Firms accustomed to freebies miffed that web giant's largess doesn't last

    After offering free G Suite apps for more than a decade, Google next week plans to discontinue its legacy service – which hasn't been offered to new customers since 2012 – and force business users to transition to a paid subscription for the service's successor, Google Workspace.

    "For businesses, the G Suite legacy free edition will no longer be available after June 27, 2022," Google explains in its support document. "Your account will be automatically transitioned to a paid Google Workspace subscription where we continue to deliver new capabilities to help businesses transform the way they work."

    Small business owners who have relied on the G Suite legacy free edition aren't thrilled that they will have to pay for Workspace or migrate to a rival like Microsoft, which happens to be actively encouraging defectors. As noted by The New York Times on Monday, the approaching deadline has elicited complaints from small firms that bet on Google's cloud productivity apps in the 2006-2012 period and have enjoyed the lack of billing since then.

    Continue reading
  • UK competition watchdog seeks to make mobile browsers, cloud gaming and payments more competitive
    Investigation could help end WebKit monoculture on iOS devices

    The United Kingdom's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) on Friday said it intends to launch an investigation of Apple's and Google's market power with respect to mobile browsers and cloud gaming, and to take enforcement action against Google for its app store payment practices.

    "When it comes to how people use mobile phones, Apple and Google hold all the cards," said Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive of the CMA, in a statement. "As good as many of their services and products are, their strong grip on mobile ecosystems allows them to shut out competitors, holding back the British tech sector and limiting choice."

    The decision to open a formal investigation follows the CMA's year-long study of the mobile ecosystem. The competition watchdog's findings have been published in a report that concludes Apple and Google have a duopoly that limits competition.

    Continue reading
  • Google recasts Anthos with hitch to AWS Outposts
    If at first you don't succeed, change names and try again

    Google Cloud's Anthos on-prem platform is getting a new home under the search giant’s recently announced Google Distributed Cloud (GDC) portfolio, where it will live on as a software-based competitor to AWS Outposts and Microsoft Azure Stack.

    Introduced last fall, GDC enables customers to deploy managed servers and software in private datacenters and at communication service provider or on the edge.

    Its latest update sees Google reposition Anthos on-prem, introduced back in 2020, as the bring-your-own-server edition of GDC. Using the service, customers can extend Google Cloud-style management and services to applications running on-prem.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022