The Privacy Sandbox is Google’s initiative for building a more private web, and a key aspect involves phasing out support for third-party cookies in Chrome through an alternative called FLoC. Given Google’s reach, the change was always going to be contentious, and it today offered a series of Privacy Sandbox commitments.
They were born out of the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announcing an investigation into the Privacy Sandbox at the start of this year. Google says it “welcomed the opportunity to engage with a regulator with the mandate to promote competition for the benefit of consumers.”
The commitments cover how Google will “design and implement the Privacy Sandbox proposals and treat user data.” At a high level, there are three tentpoles.
Consultation and collaboration: The first commitment will see Google continue to inform the web/ads ecosystem and UK regulator of “timelines, changes, and tests during the development of the Privacy Sandbox proposals.” This includes resolving concerns and developing “agreed parameters for the testing of new proposals.”
No data advantage for Google advertising products: Given that Google has both an advertising business and is a major browser vendor, the company commits to the following:
- Ads products will not access synced Chrome browsing histories (or data from other user-facing Google products) in order to track users to target or measure ads on sites across the web.
- Ads products will also not access synced Chrome browsing histories or publishers’ Google Analytics accounts to track users for targeting and measuring ads on our own sites, such as Google Search.
The company previously said it would not build or use alternate identifiers — i.e., a third-party cookie replacement — to track individuals on the web.
No self-preferencing: Privacy Sandbox will “not give preferential treatment or advantage to Google’s advertising products or to Google’s own sites.”
The UK regulator believes the commitments would work, and is accepting comments from the broader industry until July 8 before finalization. Contact instructions are available here.
Overall, the CMA’s provisional view is that, in combination, the Proposed Commitments would address the competition concerns that the CMA has identified in relation to the Privacy Sandbox Proposals, and provide a robust basis for the CMA, ICO and third parties to influence the future development of Google’s Proposals to ensure that the Purpose of the Commitments is achieved.
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