Press Release

Movement for an Open Web calls on EU to curb Google’s anti-competitive behaviour

Coalition of leading businesses formally lodges complaint with EU Commission highlighting Google’s use of its own technology to restrict Open Web competition

A coalition of leading tech, advertising, and publishing companies has submitted a formal complaint about Google’s anti-competitive “Privacy Sandbox” web browser changes to the EU Commission.

Google’s changes will impair independent analytics, advertising, fraud detection, data services, performance optimisation, and other open web features whilst increasing the value of the data Google receive from sources uniquely available to them due to their scale and integrated services like search, Chrome and Android.

Google is placing itself in the position to decide what data can be shared on the web and with whom. Such power can only be wielded by regulators and threatens the Open Web.

The Movement for an Open Web (MOW), previously Marketers for an Open Web, is an alliance of businesses campaigning to keep the web open, promote user choices and a diversity of voices and opinions. MOW has provided the EU Commission with evidence of Google’s technology changes, how they impact choice and competition, and have outlined potential remedies.

MOW is calling upon the EU Commission to use its wide-ranging powers to stop Google from enclosing the Open Web, allow increased end-user choice and promote independent data management to allow increased privacy and diversity.

Remedies should include oversight, notification and compliance:

  • Google providing the EU with oversight of Google’s planned browser changes – enabling privacy and competition assessments to be made by the EU and data protection authorities in line with Google’s proposed remedy to the UK’s Competition and Market Authority and Information Commissioner’s Office
  • Obligation on Google to notify the EU in advance of all anticompetitive browser changes and similar measures • Google to introduce a certified compliance programme similar to that required of public corporations in the United States under the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation which requires regular independent audit and personal verification by Google management of compliance
  • Regular qualitative reviews by the EU in parallel with the CMA and market testing of the competitive impact of proposed changes
  • Oversight by data protection authorities is also needed to examine and satisfy themselves that privacy is being protected, and not merely being asserted by Google

MOW is supported by businesses concerned that Google is threatening the open web model vital to the functioning of a free and competitive media and online economy. James Rosewell, Director of MOW, said: “The internet was originally envisaged as an open environment outside the control of any single body. Google maintains it is making these changes to protect privacy but if not properly policed, the move threatens digital media, online privacy and innovation.

“Solutions aligned to laws – not self-serving misuse of the web architecture by the members of Big Tech such as Google – are needed. More people, surrendering more personal data to fewer companies doesn’t improve anyone’s privacy while stifling competition and boosting their huge profits even further.”

Tim Cowen, legal advisor to MOW and Chair of the Antitrust Practice at Preiskel & Co LLP, said: “We’re asking that the EU Commission create a level playing field for all digital businesses, to maintain and protect an open web. Google says they’re strengthening ‘privacy’ for end users but they’re not, what they’re really proposing is a creepy data mining party.”

For more information:
Chris Blackhurst
[email protected]

About Movement for an Open Web (MOW)

Movement for an Open Web, launched a year ago, is a coalition campaigning against Big Tech’s attempts to control the open web. It is made up of businesses that wish to see an open web that is freely accessible, vibrant, independent and not subject to restrictions imposed by one company or a small group of companies.

The open web is a decentralised, standards-based environment that enables a diverse and competitive online ecosystem and is vital to the functioning of a free and competitive media and online economy. The internet was originally envisaged as an open environment outside of the control of any single body. Google and others are attempting to take control of the web through their dominant power, to the detriment of wider society. These attempts to take control of the open web threaten digital media, online security and other digital businesses.

MOW was formed to ensure a level and fair playing field that fosters competition and innovation. That requires regulators to intervene to create an environment where such an outcome is achievable. MOW is supported by businesses that between them have annual revenues of $40bn-plus. The name has been changed because more businesses, not just marketing companies, are realising the threat from Privacy Sandbox and the benefit of joining the MOW campaign.

Notes to editors

About Privacy Sandbox

At the moment, websites match content to individuals using IDs stored in cookies, small pieces of text that are placed on your computer to remember information such as preferences or login name. The technology that governs these cookies is based on commonly agreed standards that are not controlled by any one commercial organisation.
Privacy Sandbox replaces some of these cookies with a system proposed by Google within its Chrome browser and Chromium developer tools, meaning that Google will effectively control how websites can monetize and operate their business. This has major implications for how publishers can use online advertising to fund their businesses and which supply chain vendors they can choose to operate their websites. It will also incentivise people to remain logged into a website to receive access to relevant information or most news.
This means that any business that buys or sells advertising will be reliant on Google for a part of the process, whether they like it or not. This will reduce the ability of independent players to compete with Google, strengthening their monopoly control of online commerce.
The impact in practice is that more personal information must be surrendered to a smaller number of trillion-dollar US companies operating an oligopoly. It will also impact a huge range of other non-cookie-based technologies in areas such as fraud detection, analytics, information sharing and online security.