Future's Dave Randall on the CMA's Google Probe, GDPR, and Social Media's Slump

On this week's episode of the MadTech Podcast, Dave Randall, commercial director at Future plc, joins ExchangeWire's Rachel Smith and Mat Broughton to discuss the CMA's latest investigation into Google's ad tech, the effectiveness of GDPR, and social media stocks' sharp decline.


CMA launches antitrust probe into Google’s ad tech

Are investigations enough to force changes to the ad tech landscape, or is more enforcement needed?

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has begun another investigation into Google over allegations of anti-competitive ad tech practices. The CMA will assess whether the behemoth’s “dominant” position in the market is stifling competitors, examining in particular the company’s control over DSPs, ad exchanges, and publisher ad servers. According to the CMA, Google holds shares of 50%-60%, 80%-90%, and 90%-100% in each area respectively. CMA CEO Andrea Coscelli indicated that the body is concerned that Google uses its prime position to promote its own services above rivals, skewing the landscape in its favour.

The probe isn’t the first by the watchdog, which previously investigated the tech giant’s “Jedi Blue” ad deal with Facebook and the development of its Privacy Sandbox. Despite this, the regulator has not taken any enforcement action against Google, and is waiting for the UK government to grant its Digital Markets Unit the additional powers required to intervene directly. Until then, the industry body says it will continue to investigate potential infringements.

The investigation follows the introduction of a proposed US bill that could force Google to divest some of its ad tech stack.


GDPR remains slow at tackling Big Tech

Is GDPR strong enough to safeguard user privacy? Do changes need to be made to how it is enforced?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) turned four last week, but commentators have pointed out that it has yet to make significant changes to how personal data is obtained and treated by Big Tech companies. Organisations that have brought cases under the legislation complain that enforcement is currently far too slow, a failure which leaves user information vulnerable to abuse.

The ‘one-stop-shop’ process for handling complaints against companies that operate in several EU countries has meant that some national regulators have struggled to keep up with the number of cases levied locally and abroad against multinational giants. This is exemplified by the Irish regulator – responsible for Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Airbnb, Yahoo, Twitter, Microsoft, Apple, LinkedIn, and all of Google’s services, the IDPC has so far resolved 65% of cross-border complaints, leaving 400 outstanding.

EU officials maintain that regulation takes time to become fully effective, and commentators say it is important to note that the number of fines being issued under the law has increased, totalling €1.6bn (~£1.4bn) to date. The impact that GDPR has had on companies’ practices, as well as in penalising those that misuse consumer data, should also be acknowledged.


Social media stocks sink after Snap lowers revenue targets

Why are advertisers reacting so strongly? Could this rapid downturn signal the beginning of the end for some social media platforms?

Social media companies have seen their stock value plummet by USD $160bn (~£126b.6n) following a warning from the CEO of Snap that the company would fail to meet revenue expectations. The owner of photo-sharing platform Snapchat saw its own share price drop 43% after Evan Spiegel’s caution to investors, with Facebook, Alphabet, Pinterest, and Twitter experiencing declines of between seven and 24%. 

In an SEC filing, Snap asserted that “the macroeconomic environment has deteriorated further and faster than anticipated”, causing the company to revise its expected earnings for the quarter. News outlets report that ongoing concerns surrounding record levels of inflation and the war in Ukraine have driven marketers to pull spend from social media platforms, and even sparked sell-offs across the ad tech space.