Press Release

Android Sandbox: Google tests CMA’s “eyesight”

The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) confirmed its involvement in Google’s announcement of its Android Privacy Sandbox – much to the confusion of the market. We are left wondering what that involvement means – or if the CMA have read their own agreement with Google.

Broken Commitments

The Movement for an Open Web (MOW) on one hand welcomes Google’s cooperation with the CMA on the Privacy Sandbox. Silicon Valley companies are infamous for ‘move fast and break things’ business strategies and a ‘catch me if you can’ approach to regulation. This cooperation seemed to be a step in the right direction.

It is disappointing then, that even within this cooperative framework, Google appears to be playing fast and loose with their commitments – and the CMA seem to be oblivious.

Google’s Commitments provide “for scrutiny and oversight by the CMA over implementation of an announcements relating to Google’s privacy sandbox proposals” [1].  One harm the CMA has identified was Google causing “uncertainty in the market” via public statements as to “the specific alternative solution that will be available to publishers and ad tech providers once TPCs are deprecated.”[2]

Yet Google’s Android Privacy Sandbox announcement creates the very uncertainty the settlement agreement prohibits. This leaves only the impression that CMA either didn’t recognize this – or deemed it acceptable.

Vigilance Needed

The CMA has made a public statement of intent which it now must fulfil. Following the Android announcement, it said accepting Google’s commitments last week was, “just the start of our [the CMA’s] work. The CMA now has the important job of overseeing Google’s development of its Privacy Sandbox.”

MOW will be writing to the CMA to get an explanation for how it is discharging its obligations in this case and highlight Google’s approach to forums such as the W3C; Google’s Android Sandbox announcement has seemingly already undermined the CMA’s position and Google’s commitments.

Thorough and proper scrutiny is vital at this point – and this can only be achieved through a consistent and coordinated effort. With a track record of securing vital agreements, joining MOW is timelier than ever.

For more information about this issue, or about becoming a member of the Movement for an Open Web,  please get in touch at:

Notes for Editors

The latest Android Privacy Sandbox announcement makes no mention of the timeline for the removal of interoperable data “including advertising ID” being conditioned on the existence of an effective or viable alternative.

Thus, the market impression is that Google’s conduct will once again leave it with exclusive control over the monetization of media owner properties and apps on Android.

This is in line with Google’s strategy as referenced in the internal documents disclosed by the US Attorneys General suit, which referred to this strategy as Google’s “ Not-Owned-But-Operated strategy to increase its margins, which given marketing budgets are fixed means increasing costs passed through to consumers.”

The uncertainty that is created in the announcement lies in threatening the removal of third-party cookies while there is no viable alternative. That remains the case. The Android announcement is another event and communication that reinforces the threat while there is still no viable alternative.

[1] See Paragraph 3, Competition and Markets Authority, Case 50972, Privacy Sandbox Google Commitments Offer

[2] See Paragraph 1.4, Competition and Markets Authority, Case 50972, Notice of intention to accept modified commitments offered by Google in relation to its Privacy Sandbox Proposals

Header image: Denny Muller via Unsplash (Licensed for use under the Unsplash License)