EU antitrust regulators launch probe into Google’s FLoC plan

Close-up shot of the Chrome web browser's logo on an Android screen.

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The European Commission today said it has begun investigating Google for “possible anticompetitive conduct” in the market for online advertising technology.

The EC announcement said the formal antitrust investigation will “assess whether Google has violated EU competition rules by favoring its own online display advertising technology services in the so-called ‘ad tech’ supply chain, to the detriment of competing providers of advertising technology services, advertisers and online publishers.” The EC said it will “examine whether Google is distorting competition by restricting access by third parties to user data for advertising purposes on websites and apps, while reserving such data for its own use.”

Chrome and Android figure into the investigation. The EC said it will investigate “Google’s announced plans to prohibit the placement of third-party ‘cookies’ on Chrome and replace them with the ‘Privacy Sandbox’ set of tools, including the effects on online display advertising and online display advertising intermediation markets.” Google’s Privacy Sandbox is also called FLoC, for Federated Learning of Cohorts.

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