Someone asked me recently, is Google trying to starve out the adtech ecosystem with the third-party cookie deprecation delays?
In the same conversation, I was also asked, what’s going on with Google’s Privacy Sandbox initiatives? They’ve been working on them for a while with little to show for it. Is it that the job is so difficult, or they aren’t trying hard, or…?
My reply: I think those are likely to be two sides of the same coin: Google wants to pay lip-service to working with the adtech industry, and being privacy safe with Privacy Sandbox just enough so that they don’t lose an antitrust case by US or European regulators when they take away third-party cookies…effectively, they want to do just enough to make sure DSPs don’t go out of business.
They don’t give a hoot about data players, because Google does not directly monetize data, and they are therefore more insulated from an antitrust complaint from data providers (plus, data businesses are not exactly a sympathetic group of class-action plaintiffs). That leads them to propose a series of offerings that effectively remove data as a differentiable asset as well as removing the data as something that can be monetized across the industry.
If they succeed, this would have a few effects:
- Google’s only competitor that knows more than them about users would now be Meta
- Non-Google DSPs could no longer compete on the validity of target packages and essentially regress to the mean.
- All data businesses would die a fast and ugly death
Ironically, independent adtech is just caught in the crossfire. The real target is Meta, whose ads business increasingly depends on understanding users on sites that are not Facebook, because of declining viewership on the flagship site.
BUT, without adoption of FLOC or TOPICS, they can’t “go nuclear” on Meta and remove third-party cookies without risking the antitrust decision.
Eventually, my guess is that they point to all the “work” they did, tell regulators it isn’t their fault the industry did not adopt their “Privacy Tech” and ditch third-party cookies anyway. I guess we’ll have to wait until 2024 to see now.
Google doesn’t actually care about the adtech ecosystem. They might inadvertently level it as it currently stands, but it would amount to a rounding error rather than an intentional attack. Google is just trying to do the minimum amount of work to avoid getting the “Go Straight to Monopoly Jail” card in the UK (and therefore, Europe).
Google’s real target is Meta / Facebook… not their social media business mind you, because who hangs out on Facebook these days anyway? It’s their ads business.
Facebook knows A LOT about its users and can provide interesting, valuable info to basically any site that does some form of commerce (or politics, but that’s as they say, another can of worms) on the web.
Re: the second question. Google’s Privacy Sandbox initiatives all suffer from the same flaw, and that is taking valuable data and transforming it into valueless data.
Which adtech company would want to adopt that?
No progress on the Privacy Sandbox adoption front, an attempt to avoid monopoly jail, and a desire to starve out Facebook, hence, delay in third-party cookie deprecation in Chrome, the most popular browser.
Note: The image featured in this article was created by our friend Eren Ecran who asked the DALL-E AI to create some pics about web cookies and internet ads.