Google, here’s how it takes our data: the Antitrust Authority opens an investigation for abuse of dominant position

The Italian Antitrust Authority has initiated an investigation against Google, assuming an abuse of a dominant position. The company, controlled by Alphabet Inc, informs a note, allegedly violated Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union regarding the availability and use of data for the processing of display advertising campaigns, the space that publishers and website owners make available for the display of advertising content.

In the crucial online advertising market – underlines a note from the Antirrust – which Google controls also thanks to its dominant position on a large part of the digital supply chain, the Authority challenges the company to discriminate against the use of the enormous amount of data collected through its own applications, preventing competing operators in online advertising sales markets from being able to compete effectively.

In particular, Google appears to have engaged in internal-external discrimination by refusing to provide the Google ID decryption keys and excluding third-party tracking pixels. At the same time, it would have used tracers that allow it to make its advertising intermediation services capable of achieving a targeting capacity that some equally efficient competitors are unable to replicate.

It should be considered that online advertising sales in 2019 recorded a value of over 3.3 billion in Italy, which currently represents 22% of the resources of the media sector, and display advertising alone had a turnover of over 1.2 billion. By importance, online advertising is the second largest source of revenue in the media sector in terms of value.

Through the cookies inserted together with banners, pop-ups or other forms of advertising messages visible during the consultation of a website, it is possible for advertisers, agencies and advertising intermediaries to acquire relevant data for the user’s consumption choice and thus personalize subsequent campaigns, orienting the positioning of messages on the content of interest to the individual user.

In addition to these relevant data, Google has multiple tools that allow you to reconstruct in detail the profile of the subjects to which advertising messages should be directed. These are the Android mobile operating system, installed on most smartphones used in Italy, the browser for Chrome mobile devices, for mobile search, the browser for Chrome personal computers, the cartography and navigation services Google Maps / Waze and of all other services provided through Google ID (gmail, drive, docs, sheet, Youtube).

The conducts that will be investigated by the Authority seem to have a significant impact on competition in the various markets of the digital advertising chain with extensive repercussions on competitors and consumers. The absence of competition in the intermediation of digital advertising, in fact, could reduce the resources allocated to website producers and publishers, thus impoverishing the quality of content directed to end customers. Furthermore, the absence of effective competition based on merit could discourage technological innovation for the development of less invasive advertising technologies and techniques for consumers.

On October 27, the Authority conducted inspections at Google’s offices, with the collaboration of the military of the Guardia di Finanza.