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UK Watchdog Launched Second Investigation into Google Over Antitrust Abuses on AdTech

UK Watchdog Launched Second Investigation into Google Over Antitrust Abuses on AdTech

UK Watchdog Launched Second Investigation into Google Over Antitrust Abuses on AdTech

Google’s business practices are under scrutiny once more.

The company is already facing an antitrust probe in Europe, and now the UK’s regulator has said it will investigate Google for alleged anticompetitive behavior.

CMA to Investigate Google's AdTech Practices

The Bureau of Competition launched a formal investigation into the tech giant on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

This is the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) second probe of Google’s adtech practices — after it said it would investigate an ad deal between Google and Facebook referred to internally as ‘Jedi Blue’, back in March. (That deal also features in a major antitrust complaint against Google’s adtech over the pond, led by the U.S. State of Texas.)

The CMA also opened a probe of Google's ad-related Privacy Sandbox plan in 2021. It was triggered by complaints about its planned deprecation of tracking cookies to migrate to an alternative stack of ad targeting technologies.

This development remains under external monitoring after a settlement between Google and the CMA, which looks to have slowed the pace of any switch.

Google has also recently changed its approach to push for topic-based ad targeting instead of cohorts, which can help advertisers reach their target audiences on Google search and other channels where topics are relevant. By creating a group of ads that speak to those specific interests, advertisers can focus on getting users who are interested in what they have to offer.

The latest Google probe by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) focuses on what it describes as “strong” positions Google holds in adtech intermediation, aka the adtech tech stack, which the regulator suspects could be distorting competition — since the tech giant owns the largest service provider in three key parts of the chain.

The regulator will be investigating whether Google has a dominant position in three key parts of the adtech tech stack: demand side platforms (DSPs), ad exchanges, and publisher ad servers. The company owns the largest provider of all three services in each case — DoubleClick Bid Manager, Doubleclick Ad Exchange, and DoubleClick Ad Server.