EU Launches Antitrust Probe Into Google Ad Tech And Google FLoC

Google faces antitrsut probe

Google has been facing a series of antitrust allegations in the recent past. Now, the European Commission has opened an antitrust case against Google’s advertising practices.

This probe will look into Google’s Ad tools, including Ad Exchange, DV360, and Google Ads. The commission will try to find out if these tools gave Google an unfair advantage over the competition.

European Commission Investigating Google Since 2019

Euroopean Commission Google antitrust probe
Image: Unsplash

As per a WSJ report, the European Commission had been conducting this investigation into Google since 2019. Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., made over $182 billion in revenues in 2020. Almost 70-80% of this revenue came from Google’s advertising business.

Now that the EU has opened an antitrust probe against Google Ads, the company may be fined 9% of its annual revenue if found at fault. Between the years 2015-18, Google has paid over $9 billion in fines and settlements.

However, the company still keeps registering profits and expanding its business. The European Commission’s probe will question Google’s position as an intermediary. It’ll primarily aim at determining if the company engaged in killing off the competition using its ad tools.

An example of this case is YouTube. If you want to purchase YouTube ads, you’ll have to use Google’s ad tools. According to the EC’s case, this puts other advertisers at a disadvantage.

Google FLoC May Be Questioned Too

Shortly after Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature, Google decided to phase out targeted ads too. However, its method of doing so is under fire from privacy advocates as well as the EU.

Google is phasing out third-party cookies from Google Chrome and introducing Google FLoC. In broad terms, FLoC stops websites from directly tracking you, but it lets Google track you and gives out limited data to the sites that request it.

While it is less intrusive than cookies, it still serves targetted ads and does nothing to solve online tracking. The company recently settled an antitrust case in the U.K., promising to treat competition fairly.

What’s Next For Google Ads?

If The EC can prove its case, Google ads may be fined and ordered to correct course. In the meantime, Google FLoC is also drawing the commission’s attention.

Albeit it is for the wrong reasons, if it is found violating antitrust guidelines, Google FLoC could be gone from Europe. This is by far the broadest investigation into Google’s business.

Another speculation is that the commission may order Google to break up its business. It’s not clear whether the commission can do that, but it’ll be a matter of concern for Google if possible.

The search engine giant has been facing antitrust cases from the U.S. government and the U.S. Department of Justice. Google Pay also has an antitrust case against it in India.

While the company has defended itself against the cases, there seems to be a barrage of antitrust cases coming onto Google now and then.

From a broader perspective, nearly all the big tech is facing antitrust cases. Be it Apple, Google, Facebook, or Amazon. In some areas, it is because of monopolistic behavior, and in others, the probes are into privacy issues.

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