German media companies want the European Union to prevent Google from removing third-party cookies from its Chrome browser, claiming the move will eat into critical ad revenues for news organizations.
Axel Springer and hundreds of other publishers, advertisers, and content providers claim that Google parent Alphabet is breaking European antitrust laws with its plan to gradually phase out cookies from its signature web browser.
If Google were to follow through on the plan, it could result in revenue losses of up to 70% for media entities that rely on the search engine’s cookies to generate clicks through analyzing user preferences.
The complaint was filed with EU antitrust regulators in Brussels on Monday, according to the Financial Times.
While Google claims the move is being done to safeguard users’ privacy, the publishers claimed that Google will still be able to use alternative methods to collect data that will benefit its own advertising service while leaving competitors in the lurch.
“Publishers must remain in a position where they are allowed to ask their users for consent to process data, without Google capturing this decision,” according to the complaint.
“Google must respect the relationship between publishers and users without interfering.”
Third-party cookies – snippets of code that log user info – are used to help businesses more effectively target advertising and fund free online content such as newspapers.
However, they’ve also been a longstanding source of privacy concerns because they can be used to track users across the internet.
Rival web browsers like Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox have removed third-party cookies.
In February 2020, Google announced that it would begin phasing out third-party cookies. The plan was to do away with the cookies by this year, but it has been challenged by regulators, prompting delays in the roll-out.
Google dominates the digital advertising market worldwide, taking in 27.5 percent of all global ad spending, according to market research firm eMarketer. Its share of the US ad market last year was 28.9 percent, according to the firm.
The search giant’s share of online advertising, however, is much greater. In 2019, the European Union estimated that Google’s market share of online display ads was more than 85 percent between 2006 and 2016.
The Post has reached out to Google seeking comment.
A Google spokesperson told FT: “Many other platforms and browsers have already stopped supporting third-party cookies but Google is the only one to do this openly and in consultation with technical standards bodies, regulators, and the industry, while also proposing new, alternative technologies.”
Google has been hit with fines totaling nearly $10 billion by Brussels over alleged antitrust violations.
Google’s business practices have drawn the scrutiny of regulators on both sides of the Atlantic.
The company is facing a barrage of regulatory battles — including a Texas-led antitrust suit over its advertising practices and a bill under consideration in the Senate that would stop the company from giving its own products a leg up in search results.
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