Study: GDPR boosted Google market share and cut third-party cookies

A discussion paper on ‘European Privacy Law and Global Markets for Data’ by the Centre for Economic Policy Research dated 8th March found that data protection laws - specifically, GDPR - has resulted in a decrease in number of websites placing third-party tracking cookies, and a corresponding surge in the use of first-party cookies.

The study also documents substantial shift in market power. It says:

“With the introduction of GDPR, the dominant firm in many markets for web technologies, Google, increases its market share whereas all other firms that supply web technology either do not see a change in market share or suffer losses.”

Anna Morfey, Partner, spoke to Charlie Baskerville from Global Data Review:

“Data exploitation tends to be perpetrated by companies which occupy dominant positions in the various online markets, and competition rules have a vital role to play in holding the Tech giants to account. It is widely acknowledged that individuals’ data is the most important asset in the digital economy and the acquisition of vast quantities of data is what allows the likes of Google and Facebook to make billions of dollars each year via targeted advertising. Effectively, data is their currency. So, it is not surprising that the Study found that ‘regulating privacy can have unintended consequences on market structure and competition’.”

She continues:

“It's interesting that this Study found that GDPR has served to entrench Google’s market share. Surely EU regulators must be concerned that the findings that Google and Facebook’s increase in market share in EU-targeted websites, resulting in an amplified concentration in web technology markets, followed the introduction of GDPR. The Study notes that ‘[u]nder European law, antitrust and privacy laws have traditionally been distinct.’ The Study’s findings provide further support for the view that a more joined-up approach is needed.” 

The Study makes reference to the European Commission’s clearance of the Facebook/WhatsApp merger in 2014, where it was concluded that ‘any privacy-related concerns flowing from the increased concentration of data within the control of Facebook as a result of the transaction do not fall within the scope of the EU competition law rules but within the scope of the EU data protection rules’. 

Anna concludes:

“A similar conclusion was reached when the Commission cleared the Google/Doubleclick merger in 2008. The Commission has an opportunity to adopt a fresh approach with the forthcoming assessment of the Google/FitBit merger - where data, privacy and antitrust issues will all arise - and no doubt many will be watching how the Commission tackles these issues in 2020.”

Full GDR article (subscription only).
European Privacy Law and Data Study.

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