Google’s IP Address Protection Plan Sparks Backlash from Advertisers and Competition Authorities

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Google's IP Address Protection Plan Sparks Backlash from Advertisers and Competition Authorities
(Image: Tobias Költzsch/Golem.de)

The announced attempt by Google’s Chrome team to obscure users’ IP addresses as a protection against tracking is reportedly facing significant opposition from advertisers. The Register magazine reported on a corresponding incident in the United Kingdom. According to the report, the Movement for an Open Web (MOW), an advocacy group for advertisers, has already lodged a complaint with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Google introduced the idea of IP obfuscation just a few weeks ago, intending to implement it with special proxy servers. The long-term goal is to have two servers, with one operated by Google itself and the second by partners. Apple is also testing a similar idea with Intelligent Tracking Protection in Safari, and its Privacy Relay functions in a similar manner.

MOW had previously filed complaints with the CMA against Google’s plans to eliminate third-party cookies. According to the report, MOW now argues that Google is undermining the concessions it made to the CMA with the IP obfuscation. Google had to repeatedly postpone its plan to stop supporting third-party cookies in Chrome due to various competition proceedings, associated negotiations, and technical revisions.

Competition in Advertising

The fact that competition authorities are getting involved in Chrome changes is because Google is also one of the largest providers of online advertising. MOW told The Register, “IP protection is an anti-competitive technology that Google wants to impose on the internet under the guise of privacy. It deprives Google’s competitors of crucial data, while Google can continue to use it.” MOW had a similar argument in the discussion about the end of third-party cookies.

Google itself points out in the current case that even with IP protection in Chrome, the provider is no longer able to link users’ IP addresses with the visited websites. The statement reads, “Critics claiming that our IP protection proposal favors Google are either knowingly misrepresenting the facts or simply do not understand what is being proposed here.”

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Michael Lynch
With a passion for cybersecurity, Michael Lynch covers data protection and online privacy, providing expert guidance and updates on digital security matters.