European Union (EU) antitrust regulators are considering a formal investigation into Google’s advertising business before 2021 closes out, Reuters reported, citing sources.
If the investigation moves forward, it is expected to examine Google’s relationships regarding advertisers, publishers, intermediaries and competitors, one source told Reuters. The probe could dig deeper than the antitrust case in France that closed last week. France settled with Google for $268 million.
Google made more money from digital advertising revenue in 2020 — $147 billion — than any other firm worldwide. Ads on search, YouTube, and Gmail comprise the majority of its revenue, per Reuters.
The EU antitrust watchdog fined Google $9.8 billion over the last 10 years for preventing competitors in online shopping, Android phones and digital advertising, Reuters reported.
A new EU probe could focus on Google’s entire advertising arm. Market researcher eMarketer forecasted that Google would control 27 percent of global spend on digital advertising in 2021, including 57 percent for search ads and 10 percent of display, Reuters reported.
Google is facing numerous antitrust investigations including one in the U.S. brought by 50 of the state attorneys general nationwide. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is also investigating Google’s business practices, a move that aims to break up the tech giant from its ad unit. Some lawyers have countered that breaking up Google’s ad business could be difficult since it’s not a stand-alone unit.
Google said in March that it would stop tracking users’ browsing behavior to sell ads and — by 2022 — stop using and investing in tracking tech that ID users while browsing. Google accounted for an estimated 52 percent of 2020’s global digital ad spend of $292 billion.
Chrome, Google’s browser, is also getting rid of support for third-party cookies. It is working with the Privacy Sandbox to engineer solutions to better protect user identity while at the same time addressing the needs of advertisers and publishers.