Independent ad tech urges regulators not to stop at divestiture to rein in Google

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Apple and Google are facing unrivaled scrutiny from regulators on either side of the Atlantic, and it is within this context that Movement for an Open Web has recommended measures to level the playing field in ad tech.

MoW has also urged the U.K.’s Competition Markets Authority to force divestiture of Google’s ad tech assets, plus join with antitrust authorities from other G7 nations to oversee digital standards bodies such as the World Wide Web Consortium, a.k.a. W3C.

The suggestions came to light in an open letter to the CMA, which is effectively leading global regulatory oversight of Google’s proposals after it sunsets the use of third-party cookies in the guise of Privacy Sandbox.

Additional recommendations include curbing the capabilities of Apple and Google’s respective web browsers, Safari and Chrome, to simply help web users navigate the web and promote interoperability with other tech providers.

Included in MoW’s recommendations are paring back Chrome and Safari’s ability to offer users default, or “biased” to use the body’s wording, services – a key point of contention in the Justice Department’s ongoing antitrust case against Google and its search engine.

Further remedies tabled in front of the antitrust regulator include the insistence that browsers guarantee data interoperability for all through tools such as “match keys”, such as advertising IDs, in a manner that prevents the likes of Apple and Google from interfering with rival ad tech providers.

The recommendations are being made to regulators on all sides of the Atlantic with authorities in jurisdictions such as the EU and the U.S. likewise honing in on Big Tech’s global dominance of the online advertising market.

Tim Cowen, chair of the antitrust practice at law firm Preiskel & Co, and MOW cofounder, said, “Now is the time to think about the detailed remedies that will create a more vibrant and competitive digital marketplace.” 

He further detailed how a breakup of some parts of Google’s ad tech business, such as its supply and demand-side platforms is “inevitable” and cited “fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory” – or “FRAND” as MOW terms it, access and interoperability as a basic step towards ensuring better market competition.  

“Google has become dominant through a combination of deals and poor standards-setting by the likes of the W3C, and by a series of concerted steps to exclude rivals, remove interoperability and stifle competition,” he added.

“This has been possible through the fact that they control the majority of the web’s traffic through the Chromium/Chrome browser and the majority of the web’s data through their deal with Apple, therefore, it’s vital that the pivotal role of the browser as a gatekeeper technology is also recognized and controlled.”

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