Google Hit With Suit In The UK Over Illegal Tracking; Lawmakers Dig In On Algorithms

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Take Two

Google seems perennially mired in litigation these days. The latest legal salvo hurled at the tech giant is a $4.16 billion class action lawsuit in the UK alleging that Google illegally tracked 4.4 million iPhone users nearly 10 years ago in England and Wales. Consumer advocate Richard Lloyd, who initiated the suit, claims Google employed a workaround for tracking on Safari between August 2011 and February 2012, which allowed Google to use cookies to track people’s browser activity without their permission. This is not allowed under British data protection laws. Business Insider reports that Google is, of course, attempting to block the suit, claiming that the latest allegations are a decade old and have already been addressed. The class action suit comes after years of legal wrangling and was initially rejected by the UK courts in 2018. But this isn’t Google’s first rodeo … or, shall we say, safari? Google was already forced to pay a $22.5 million fine to the Federal Trade Commission in 2012 over deploying a tracking workaround on Safari. 

Toned Down

The Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust is keeping the heat on big tech. But its latest hearing, held on Tuesday, was less combative than other recent hearings and spared the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and Google another grilling. This round of inquiries zeroed in on the way in which social media companies make money and how that can be problematic. The policy leads at Facebook, Twitter and YouTube answered questions about how their respective platforms use algorithms and how algorithms in general can modify human behavior. Still, the hearing wasn’t without its share of political theater. Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), chair of the Senate Judiciary’s subcommittee on privacy and tech, ­declared that algorithms are designed “to attract our time and attention on social media, and the results can be harmful to our kids’ attention spans, to the quality of our public discourse, to our public health and even to our democracy itself.” Still, this latest hearing demonstrates that bipartisan agreement is possible, which could help buoy the chances of a tech reform bill passing the Senate. Several such bills include changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a law that protects social media companies from liability for user-created content. TechCrunch has more.

ATT Worth It

Apple had a record second quarter, with revenue increasing 54% YoY to $89.6 billion. But some of the biggest headlines this week had less to do with hardware and more to do with the release of iOS 14.5 on Monday and the start of AppTrackingTransparency enforcement. Asked during Apple's earnings call on Wednesday evening what the response has been from developers, CEO Tim Cook replied in his usual fashion that the focus is on user choice. Cook said that feedback from users before and after ATT went live has been tremendous and that Apple is proud of its full implementation. “We're really standing up on behalf of the consumer here,” Cook said. But Cook declined to get specific when asked about opt-in rates for the ATT prompt. "Frankly, even if it's a very low [number] of people that don't want to be tracked," he said, "it's worth doing because those people should make their own mind up, whether they would like to be tracked or not.” [Related in AdExchanger: "IOS 14.5 Is Live, ATT Enforcement Begins – And Here’s How We Got Here"]

Post-Cookie Context

Third-party cookies are out. First-party data is in – and ad tech companies are ramping up their offerings to stay ahead of the curve. Among them is Criteo, which rolled out a new product that connects first-party commerce data with real-time contextual signals so that marketers can drive and measure incremental revenue in a post-cookie world. Read the release. Criteo has been working to reduce its exposure to the end of third-party cookies. Although retargeting is, and will continue to be, core to its business, Criteo’s top priority is to build targeting products that serve its growing base of ecommerce and retail media customers. The new contextual targeting tool is one of the solutions that Criteo has been developing for its commerce media platform, including beefing up its first-party data assets. [Related in AdExchanger: “Commerce Is Criteo’s Eject Button For The Third-Party Cookie Problem”]

But Wait, There’s More!

Bell, Canada’s largest communications company, has teamed up with Xandr to create Canada’s first self-serve advertising platform for TV and digital. [release]

Looks like the holdcos are turning a corner after being pummelled by the pandemic: IPG and WPP both reported a return to organic revenue growth in Q1 2021. [WSJ]

Here’s how the top 100 highest-grossing games are displaying iOS 14.5 ATT prompts. [LinkedIn]

Video advertising and monetization provider Aniview has extended its CTV and OTT services to additional on-demand formats. [release]

Google is adding COVID-related information to searches for travel to help people figure out whether quarantine or proof of vaccination is required at their destination. [The Verge]

SpotX has integrated with TVSquared as a preferred measurement and attribution partner for CTV. [release]

Spotify is following Apple with an ad-free podcast subscription service. [The Drum]

You’re Hired!

DoubleVerify has tapped Google veteran James Cashmore as SVP of global client and agency partnerships. [release]

Edelman has hired Karima Zmerli as global head of performance and predictive intelligence. [CampaignUS]

ID5 has appointed Joseph Quaglia as VP of sales and business development. [release]

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