CMA accepts Google's pledge on privacy

The Google internet homepage is displayed on a product at a store in London, Britain January 23, 2016. Google has agreed to pay 130 million pounds ($185 million) in back taxes to Britain, prompting criticism from opposition lawmakers and campaigners who said the
Google wants to ban third-party cookies, used by advertisers to track customer usage and interests. Photo: Neil Hall/Reuters

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has accepted the revised commitments by Google relating to the way it uses customer data.

Alphabet (GOOG), the owner of Google, offered the commitments after the competition watchdog launched an investigation into the proposals by Google to ban third-party cookies that advertisers use to track consumers.

The CMA said the search engine has now signed up to legally binding rules to avoid growing its market dominance in online advertising even further.

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The regulator will now supervise Google’s plan to cut support for some cookies in Chrome, an initiative called the "Privacy Sandbox".

Under these commitments, which run for six years, the CMA and the Information Commissioner’s Office will work with Google during the development and testing of the new Sandbox proposals.

Google will also be more transparent about its plans, with the company pledging to publish test results from the Sandbox. The CMA will also be allowed to intervene as required to ensure the changes benefit consumers and protects competition.

Google has pledged not to remove third-party cookies until the CMA is satisfied its competition concerns have been addressed. The company has also committed to restricting the sharing of data within its own organisation to ensure it does not get an advantage over competitors when third-party cookies are removed.

“While this is an important step, we are under no illusions that our work is done,” Andrea Coscelli, CMA chief executive, said.

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“We now move into a new phase where we will keep a close eye on Google as it continues to develop these proposals.

“We will engage with all market participants in this process, in order to ensure that Google is taking account of concerns and suggestions raised.”

Google has said users want more privacy when they are browsing the web, which includes not being tracked across sites by cookies.

But the digital ad sector says the loss of cookies in the world’s most popular browser will limit their ability to collect information for personalising ads.

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