Sources, Telecom News, ET Telecom

Google‘s plan, a popular web tracking tool called “cookies‘ is a cause for concern in the US Justice Department investigators Ad executives have asked if the search giant’s move will shake its smaller rivals, people familiar with the situation said.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google announced a year ago that it would ban some cookies at its company chrome Browser to increase user privacy. Over the past two months, Google released more details, prompting online ads competitors to complain about the loss of the data-gathering tool.

The questions from Justice Department investigators have related to how Chrome’s policies, including those related to cookies, are affecting the advertising and news industries, four people said.

Investigators question whether Google uses Chrome, which has a 60% global market share, to reduce competition by blocking rival advertising companies from tracking users through cookies while opening gaps for data collection with cookies, analytics tools and be left to other sources, the sources added.

The latest talks, which were previously unreported, come as officials are pursuing Google’s projects in the global online advertising market, where it and No. 2 Facebook Inc. control about 54% of revenue.

The ad request must not result in legal action.

Executives from more than a dozen companies across a range of sectors have spoken to Justice Department investigators, one of the sources said.

The government has been investigating Google’s search and advertising businesses since mid-2019, suing Google last October over alleged anti-competitive tactics to maintain its search engine’s dominance. It further investigated Google’s advertising practices.

Investigators also asked competitors whether they encountered similar or worse behavior than the advertising-related allegations made by attorneys general from Texas and other states in a lawsuit against Google last December, the people said.

The Justice Department declined to comment on this story. Google defended its ad business, saying it helps companies grow and protects user privacy from exploitative practices.

“The intense competition in advertising tools has made online advertising more affordable, lowering fees and expanding options for publishers and advertisers,” the company said.

If the Justice Department sues over advertising-related conduct, it could file a new lawsuit or join the Texas case, one of the sources said. But antitrust litigation experts said the department also has time to amend its existing complaint to include the ad-tech concerns.

Texas amended its complaint on Tuesday to allege, among other things, that upcoming changes to Chrome are “anticompetitive because they erect barriers to entry and preclude competition” in web advertising.


Google has restricted data collection and use across several of its services. The Chrome changes would impact ad technology companies that use cookies to collect people’s viewing history in order to target more relevant ads to them.

“We don’t think tracking people around the web will stand the test of time as privacy concerns continue to mount,” Jerry Dischler, a Google vice president in charge of advertising services, said at an industry conference last week.

However, smaller competitors dismiss the privacy justification used by big companies like Google and Apple Inc to limit tracking, saying they would continue to collect valuable data and potentially generate even more ad revenue.

“There is a weapon of privacy to justify business decisions that consolidate the power of your company and disadvantage the broader market,” said Chad Engelgau, chief executive of Interpublic Group of Companies Inc.’s advertising data unit Acxiom.

France’s competition regulator on Wednesday temporarily allowed Apple to introduce new tracking limits, saying privacy protections take precedence over competition concerns. The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority is expected to soon decide whether to block the upcoming Chrome changes.

(Reporting by Paresh Dave in Oakland, California and Diane Bartz in Washington; Editing by Chris Sanders and Lisa Shumaker)

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