Google as a de facto Privacy Regulator: Analyzing Chrome’s Removal of Third-party Cookies from an Antitrust Perspective

81 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2020

See all articles by Damien Geradin

Damien Geradin

Tilburg Law & Economics Center (TILEC); Geradin Partners; University of East Anglia (UEA) - Centre for Competition Policy; University College London - Faculty of Laws

Dimitrios Katsifis

Geradin Partners

Theano Karanikioti

Geradin Partners

Date Written: November 25, 2020

Abstract

Online advertising is what funds free online content. Since its birth in the 1990’s, it has evolved into a multi-billion-dollar industry. At the core of this industry lies the ability to identify and track users through various technical means, such as web cookies. Online tracking for advertising purposes has sparked privacy concerns, and is subject to a growing body of regulation across the world. But the most important rules seem to come from a handful of large technology platforms, namely Google and Apple. In their capacity as suppliers of the most popular browsers and smart mobile OSs, these companies are taking a series of measures in the name of user privacy that restrict the ability to identify users, thus shaking the very foundations of online advertising. In what is a first in a series of papers exploring Google and Apple’s role as de facto privacy regulators for online advertising, we propose to explore in detail Chrome’s decision to phase out support for third-party cookies, accompanied by a set of proposals known as the Privacy Sandbox. Considering that Google is the subject of growing antitrust scrutiny in the US and Europe, we query whether Chrome’s decision raises any antitrust concerns – and if so, how such concerns fit within existing antitrust investigations. At a conceptual level, we use this paper as an opportunity to reflect on the relationship between competition law and privacy and the trade-offs regulators may have to make.

Keywords: Online advertising, programmatic advertising, antitrust, competition, ad tech, privacy sandbox, Google, Chrome, user identity, privacy, GDPR, CCPA

JEL Classification: K21, L12, L41, M37, O31

Suggested Citation

Geradin, Damien and Katsifis, Dimitrios and Karanikioti, Theano, Google as a de facto Privacy Regulator: Analyzing Chrome’s Removal of Third-party Cookies from an Antitrust Perspective (November 25, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3738107 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3738107

Damien Geradin (Contact Author)

Tilburg Law & Economics Center (TILEC)

Tilburg, 5000 LE
Netherlands

Geradin Partners ( email )

Avenue Louise 475
Brussels
Belgium

University of East Anglia (UEA) - Centre for Competition Policy ( email )

UEA
Norwich Research Park
Norwich, Norfolk NR47TJ
United Kingdom

University College London - Faculty of Laws ( email )

Gower St
London WC1E OEG, WC1E 6BT
United Kingdom

Dimitrios Katsifis

Geradin Partners ( email )

Avenue Louise 475
Brussels
Belgium

Theano Karanikioti

Geradin Partners ( email )

Avenue Louise 475
Brussels
Belgium

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