An antitrust complaint was amended to include alleged collusion between Facebook and Google to give advantage to the latter’s ad exchange. This follows wider alleged collusion between a group of the biggest tech firms to undermine privacy legislation in the interests of bulk data collection.
The Register reports that, supposedly, Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft met in August 2019 to discuss delaying the privacy legislation. In relation to EU privacy legislation, Google allegedly said “We have been successful in slowing down and delaying the [ePrivacy Regulation] process.”
Supposedly, Google also conspired with Facebook against Apple to boost their ad businesses. In recent months, Apple has been striving for greater user privacy. Some described the move as an attempt to strengthen its ad business.
These Are Not the Ads You’re Looking For
Online adverts work through a “bidding” system. It’s all automated so that the whole process takes fractions of a second.
Google reportedly hatched a plan with Facebook called “Jedi Blue.” The goal would be to break through Apple’s privacy protections and steer advertisers to Facebook’s platform. Internet advertising is a big business—over $350 billion were spent on it in 2020 alone.
If done successfully, the duo would be able to connect anonymous signifiers with the real identities of Apple users. This would allow the companies to offer richer data, which in turn would let advertisers fine-tune their campaigns. It would also enable them to rig how often Facebook wins bids, even if competitors are offering more.
Commercial companies like background check services and people search sites provide user data too. That said, it is often not as granular as that used for internet advertising. The latter is a lot more specific, allowing the targeting of individuals. However, the fact that companies are colluding to circumvent privacy measures is more concerning.
Although it isn’t as harmful as ID theft, targeted advertising threatens individuals’ cybersecurity in different ways. With two of the biggest tech companies allegedly joining forces, protecting users’ internet privacy will be even harder.
The Register approached Google for comment. The firm skirted the question and implied the allegations were false without outright disputing them. As these allegations are part of an ongoing antitrust suit, more developments will follow.