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The EU opens an antitrust probe into Google’s advertising technology

The European Commission has open an antitrust investigation into Google’s alleged violation of competition law through its advertising policies. Regulators, who have spent the past two years conducting informal consultations on the probe, will now assess whether Google favors its own services by limiting rivals ’access to user data for advertising purposes.

As part of the extensive investigation, the Commission will examine Google’s display and video advertising on YouTube, Google’s advertising management platform and the Ad and AdX Inventory Manager market, with restrictions of user data submitted to third parties including online advertising rivals, publishers and general advertisers. Regulators will also review Google’s decision to end individual user tracking on Chrome and Android as part of its Privacy sandbox changes.

“Online advertising services are at the heart of how Google and publishers monetize their online services,” said Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s antitrust chief. “We are concerned that Google has made it more difficult for rival online advertising services to compete in the so-called stack of advertising technology.”

As the Commission notes, there is no legal deadline for the conclusion of an antitrust case. This ultimately means that an inquiry that has been running informally for two years could take the same amount of time to reach its climax. If Google finds that it has violated antitrust rules, it will be charged with fines and remedies. However, not for the first time.

The EU already has fine Google for abuse advertising practices on three occasions between 2015 and 2018. The web giant’s Privacy Sandbox is also under investigation in the United Kingdom.

Google has said it will cooperate with the EC to illustrate the benefits of its advertising products to businesses and the public. “Thousands of European companies use our advertising products to reach new customers and fund their websites every day,” a Google spokesman said in a statement. “We choose them because they are competitive and effective. We will continue to engage constructively with the European Commission to answer their questions and demonstrate the benefits of our products to European businesses and consumers.”

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