- UK regulators announced an unprecedented deal to oversee Google’s changes to third-party cookies.
- The move comes as world leaders gather for the G7 summit in the English seaside county of Cornwall.
- Experts say the announcement has given Boris Johnson a chance to take the lead on tech regulation.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
The UK government is attempting to lead the global conversation on technology regulation as it plays host to a crowd of partner nations at the G7 this week, experts say.
Regulating the tech industry has been a major theme at this year’s summit, after finance ministers from the US, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Japan, and India pledged to introduce a new corporate rate of tax on giants like Amazon, Facebook, and Google.
On Friday morning, less than 24 hours after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden greeted one another at the annual summit, UK officials revealed Google had offered them full oversight of its new “Privacy Sandbox”, which would kill off third-party cookies from its Chrome browser.
The tech giant’s plans to do away with third-party cookies, which help businesses target individual users with online ads, sent the advertising industry into a tailspin when it was first announced in January 2020.
But the proposed new deal between Google and the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has been received positively by those in the marketing industry. The agreement gives the watchdog the power to block the changes to Chrome for up to 60 days after they’re introduced.
Some insiders believe the timing of the announcement has given the UK an opportunity to steer the conversation on tech regulation at the G7.
James Rosewell, the founder of Marketers for an Open Web, which filed the original complaint against Google’s cookie changes with the CMA, told Insider the move “clearly presented an opportunity” for the UK to bolster its tech policy credentials.
“Given the G7 are meeting as we speak, I find it hard to believe the timing of this announcement was entirely coincidental,” he said. “I’m fairly confident someone in Westminster will have connected the dots up.”
Tommaso Valletti, a professor of economics at Imperial College Business School and previously the chief competition economist at the EU Commission, agreed, telling Insider it was “very likely that the announcement has been coordinated.”
“It’s a very good initiative…unprecedented – and the right direction to go,” he said. “With Big Tech and business models that revolve around data, competition and privacy are so intertwined that they must be integrated with each other. The historical silos approach has not worked at all.”
As part of a statement posted online on Friday, the CMA said that although the partnership aims to address UK competition concerns, “they are likely to have implications for the global implementation of Google’s Privacy Sandbox proposals.”
Justin Taylor, the UK managing director at adtech firm Teads, said the boost given to the UK amid the G7 talks indicated that there had been “pressure from the government” to get the deal agreed with Google.
“The CMA is now intrinsically linked to implementation of new technologies for billions of users and thousands of businesses around the world,” he said. “By tying itself to the CMA, the UK has a huge influence on what the privacy-first future of the web will look like.”
Third-party cookies have been used to enable advertisers to follow users around the web and target them with personalized ads. Marketers were concerned that without the availability of cookies it gave Google the potential to exercise greater control over the ad market.
In the deal agreed with the CMA, Google put forward commitments to improve transparency, place substantial limits on how the tech giant would use Chrome data for advertising, as well as not discriminate against its rivals in favor of its own ad products.