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EU data companies are targeting Google’s data dominance

EU data companies are targeting Google’s data dominance
Barbara C. Arroyo

Alphabet’s Google plans to block European media companies from collecting data about their readers and reduce its dominance in online advertising, seven people who participated in the talks this month said.

Publishers have had data privacy measures in effect since August 15 to prevent Google users from storing insights about readers, which serve to dominate the data market dominated by hungry advertisers for information to target potential customers.

But Google said it would eliminate publishers from lucrative advertising by curbing its data collection. Negotiations are ongoing, but Google has greater leverage because it dominates both ad tools and access to advertisers in the $ 100 billion annual global banner advertising market.

“That’s basically what you need to implement [Google] Expect from you or you’re not in the market – you can’t do without them, ”said Thomas Adhumeu, general counsel at S4M, which competes with Google in software for advertisers.

The publishers’ strategy and ongoing discussions have not previously been reported.

Google has repeatedly overtaken website owners and its competitors over the past decade to ensure its dominance. In many cases, publishers have avoided Google in order to attract higher prices for advertising, only to see Google reiterate itself as an inevitable cog.

Opponents and publishers have argued that some of Google’s actions are illegally contested, and this year authorities in the US, UK, European Union and Australia are planning to pursue fines, with some even breaking Google.

Media giant News Corp. has publicly complained to Australian regulators this year that Google is taking advantage of publishers by collecting audience data. Other companies have said they will file a complaint if Google discontinues certain ads in August.

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Google describes the online advertising industry as “competitive” and said its policies are aimed at European Union privacy legislation and how its advertising tools work.

The EU’s two-year General Data Protection Regulation must have a legitimate reason for obtaining the approval of companies’ customers or managing their data. This prompted the Interactive Advertising Bureau of Europe (IAB), a consortium with Google and its clients and partners, to develop a technical protocol called Transparency and Compliance Framework (TCF) to ensure that customers have the appropriate approvals.

IAB chief executive Townsend Feehan said the consortium, pushed by major publishers, agreed last year to ask users for two different permissions: one to show personalized ads, the other to collect their personal data in profile.

Some websites and apps plan to waive a second license. This makes Google’s profile-building hungry, but it allows those features to deliver personalized ads from Google’s clients.

Google now says users must be granted two permissions to get personalized ads.

This is contrary to what the consortium has agreed to, said Angela Mills Wade, executive director of the Council of European Publishers.

Chetna Bindra, senior product manager at Google, says her policy around TCF is consistent.

It “does not change any of our policies for publishers, including our compliance policy, which helps users to have transparency and control how their data is collected and used to deliver personalized ads,” said Bindra.

Some Google rivals, such as advertiser software maker MediaMath, say that data permissions can be broken, giving publishers another way to reduce Google. But they still have to forgo its great advertising supply.

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Among those bored with Google’s attitude are Axel Springer of Germany and Shibstedt of Norway.

“We’re concerned when big players try to dictate the way we need to process data,” said Shibstedt Chief Privacy Officer Ingvild Ness. “It’s relevant and problematic if we end up in a situation where some companies become gatekeepers.”

Google uses software that relies on millions of partner websites to display ads, track readers’ location, features and the pages and content they use. These rich profiles allow marketers to target ads to specific users while browsing online.

Publishers, no matter how vast their own audience, have struggled to compete with the breadth of Google’s profiles.

“When Google harvested that data and enriched their profiles, Google’s bleeding publishers could see a dot at once,” said Adrian Thill, chief privacy officer at Smart, who competes with Google in publisher software.

Media companies need to share revenues with Google in order to access the unparalleled advertising clients that attract its data. Globally, publishers’ share of Google ad revenues has fallen from half to 16 percent in the last decade, according to News Corp’s antitrust consultant Dina Srinivasan.

About the author

Barbara C. Arroyo

Barbara C. Arroyo

I'm a writer, editor and newsroom leader working at the intersection of tech and media, editorial and product, journalism and management. I am driven to transform our industry for the future, develop and mentor our people, build compassionate and innovative organizational cultures, and put readers and communities at the center of it all. I also have a love of storytelling and creative work, and refuse to pick one or the other.

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