Google faces UK scrutiny over new advertising data revamp

Google faces UK scrutiny over new advertising data revamp
Google controls more than 90 percent of the UK’s £7.3 billion search advertising market, the CMA says. (Reuters)
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Updated 24 November 2020

Google faces UK scrutiny over new advertising data revamp

Google faces UK scrutiny over new advertising data revamp
  • Competition watchdog urged to force the company to delay the rollout of its ‘privacy sandbox’

LONDON: Google faces fresh regulatory scrutiny in Britain over plans to revamp its ad data system, after an industry lobbying group complained to the competition watchdog that the changes would cement the US tech giant’s online dominance.

Marketers for an Open Web, a coalition of technology and publishing companies, said Monday that it’s urging the UK competition watchdog to step in and force Google to delay the rollout of its “privacy sandbox” scheduled for early next year.

The new technology would remove so-called third party cookies that allow users to be tracked across the Internet by storing information on their devices, replaced by tools owned by Google. That means login, advertising and other features would be taken off the open web and placed under Google’s control, the group said.

The Competition and Markets Authority confirmed it received the complaint.

“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,” it said in a statement, adding that if the concerns need urgent attention, it would consider using “interim measures” to stop any suspected anti-competitive conduct pending a full investigation.

The complaint follows up on concerns about Google’s new system that the watchdog raised in a July report about online platforms and digital advertising. The report recommended the British government adopt a new regulatory approach to governing digital giants making big money from online ads.

Google said the new technology will increase privacy for users while also supporting publishers.

“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,” the company said.


France wants end to US-Europe trade spat

France wants end to US-Europe trade spat
Updated 17 January 2021

France wants end to US-Europe trade spat

France wants end to US-Europe trade spat
  • All eyes on President-elect Biden to resolve disputes between partners

PARIS: The EU and the incoming administration of US President-elect Joe Biden should suspend a trade dispute to give themselves time to find common ground, France’s foreign minister said in remarks published on Sunday.

“The issue that’s poisoning everyone is that of the price escalation and taxes on steel, digital technology and Airbus,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told Le Journal du Dimanche in an interview.

He said he hoped the sides could find a way to settle the dispute. “It may take time, but in the meantime, we can always order a moratorium,” he added.

At the end of December the US moved to boost tariffs on French and German aircraft parts in the Boeing-Airbus subsidy dispute, but the bloc decided to hold off on retaliation for now.

The EU is planning to present a World Trade Organization (WTO) reform proposal in February and is willing to consider reforms to restrain the judicial authority of the WTO’s dispute-settlement body.

The US has for years complained that the WTO Appellate Body makes unjustified new trade rules in its decisions and has blocked the appointment of new judges to stop this, rendering the body inoperable.

The Trump administration, which leaves office on Wednesday, had threatened to impose tariffs on French cosmetics, handbags and other goods in retaliation for France’s digital services tax, which it said discriminated against US tech firms.

Overturning decades of free trade consensus was a central part of Trump’s “America First” agenda. In 2018, declaring that “trade wars are good, and easy to win,” he shocked allies by imposing tariffs on imported steel and aluminum from most of the world.

While Trump later dropped tariffs against Australia, Japan, Brazil and South Korea in return for concessions, he kept them in place against more than $7 billion worth of EU metal. The bloc retaliated with tariffs on more than $3 billion worth of US goods, from orange juice and blue jeans to Harley Davidson bikes, and took its case to the WTO.

While Biden promises to be more predictable than Trump, he is not expected to lift the steel tariffs immediately. Even if he wants to, he could run into reluctance from producers in “rust belt” states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania that secured his election win.

Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, director of trade think tank ECIPE, said the US was unlikely to award Europe a “free pass,” noting that countries that had offered concessions to have their tariffs lifted could complain if Europe won better treatment.

Resolving future trade disputes could become easier, if Biden reverses Trump policy that paralyzed the WTO by blocking the appointment of judges to its appellate body.