Google’s plan to replace web browser cookies with a system that shares less data with advertisers is being investigated in the UK.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said Google’s plan could have a “significant impact” on news websites and the digital advertising market.
It had already raised concerns that publishers’ profits could sink if they were unable to run personalized ads.
But Google said digital advertising practices had to “evolve”.
‘Too much power’
Cookies are small files a web browser stores on a user’s device when they visit a webpage.
They can be used to remember what items a person has added to their online basket and deliver personalized content.
They can also be used to track somebody’s activity online and deliver targeted advertising.
Some cookies known as cross-site or third-party cookies can let publishers track a person’s web activity as they move from one website to another.
By default, Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox browsers already block cross-site cookies.
But Google intends to go further by ending support for all cookies except first-party ones – those used by sites to track activity within their own pages.
It wants to replace them with new tools that give advertisers more limited, anonymized information such as how many users visited a promoted product’s page after seeing a relevant ad – but not tie this information to individual users.
According to one industry group opposing the move, Google’s Chrome browser is installed on more than 70% of computers in the UK.
So even if other web browsers do not adopt the same approach the move would still be significant.
Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA said:
Google’s Privacy Sandbox proposals will potentially have a very significant impact on publishers like newspapers, and the digital advertising market. But there are also privacy concerns to consider,