Cookieless World

Media Review #18: Meta’s Regulatory Struggles, DMA’s Effect, First-Party Sets, and Others

Man with smartphone

Last Updated on: 25th May 2024, 09:42 pm

In this Media Review, we bring together 5 stories, including accusations against Meta for using ad-related data to harm the competition, Apple’s allowance for outside app stores on its phones, and Google sharing its First Party Sets (FPS) concepts as ready for testing.

Table of Contents:

European Regulators Accuse Meta Of Using Ad-Related Data To Harm The Competition – AdExchanger

= In connection to Chrome’s upcoming deprecation of 3rd-party cookies, there has been increased media attention towards Retail Media Networks. This concept has been with us for quite a while but is currently undergoing a renaissance as it’s being considered one of the go-to cookieless options to satisfy certain targeting business cases. Recently, the press has published a couple of pieces with a more negative slant, which one might treat as a warning sign when deciding upon which “cookieless” solution to go for.

= AdExchanger reports that Meta has been presented with antitrust violation charges from European regulators. The article specifies that the underlying reason for these charges was unfair behavior in the field of classified advertisements, which depend on Meta being authorized (according to their Terms & Conditions) to use competitors’ ads-related data for the benefit of its Facebook Marketplace. It is, however, emphasized that it’s yet to be determined whether Meta actually leverages that option or it’s only a possibility in writing.

= A second article adjacent to the above issue was released by TechCrunch. This time, however, it describes a settlement between the European Commission and Amazon regarding 2 older charges against the latter: its illegal use of merchant data and favoring sellers that use Amazon’s logistics and delivery. On top of that, the article lists the commitments which Amazon is obligated to fulfill in the European Economic Area: 

= stop leveraging non-public data from its marketplace sellers, 

= apply equality among its sellers with and without Amazon’s logistics services,

= allow Prime sellers to pick a delivery carrier for themselves.

Apple to Allow Outside App Stores in Overhaul Spurred by EU Laws – Bloomberg

= According to Bloomberg, Apple is allegedly planning to allow 3rd-party application stores on its phones and tablets across Europe in order to comply with the upcoming European Union Digital Markets Act (DMA) regulations (read more about DMA in our Media Review from 5 months ago [here]).

= Moreover, the following enhancements are supposed to be under Apple’s consideration:

  • allowing external browsers to use engines other than Apple’s WebKit in their mobile ecosystem, where it was previously required,
  • letting 3rd-party payment systems in the apps installed on iPhones and iPads, 
  • opening up more camera features to 3rd-party apps,
  • allowing external financial apps to use NFC (the article points out that it currently can only be leveraged by Apple Wallet and Apple Pay),
  • letting 3rd-party services in its iMessage and Messages app (not decided on how yet),
  • opening up its Find My network functionality to external accessories to the equal extent to Apple’s AirTag.

All of which, as the article states, are DMA’s requirements for a gatekeeper (which Apple is supposed to be) to meet.

= The article mentions that if those planned and considered actions come to life, 3rd-party app providers will be able to enjoy lower fees while consumers will benefit from the better functionality of their Apple devices.

= DMA is likely to have a very large impact on other technological giants as well, such as Meta, which is also pointed out in an article by Gazeta Prawna. The article shares Johnny Ryan’s (a member of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties) hypothesis, based on documents collected during Meta’s California trial, that Meta is very unlikely to be able to meet DMA’s requirement. The article cites Ryan, claiming that Meta commingled its users’ data to such an extent that it was impossible for them to show the data flow between various Meta systems before the court.

Data in Fashion and Sports [REPORT]
The fashion industry is in a state of rapid change... but then that’s nothing new. Top fashion brands have always sprinted from one season to the next. The real challenge is not just keeping pace with change but staying ahead of it.

First-Party Sets testing instructions – Chrome Developers

= Google announces that its First Party Sets (FPS) concept is ready for developer feature-flag testing, which is expected to last from Chrome 108 (current version) until Chrome 111 (planned for March 2023). 

= The same article lays out how FPS works, explaining that it is a mechanism allowing the sharing of data across sites, but based on the direct relationships of separate internet properties belonging to the same entity. In other words, websites with a declaration under the same overarching entity will be enabled by the browser to share cookies from one to another, which would equate to what the article calls “limited cross-site cookie access for specific, user-facing purposes.”

= It might be worth remembering that plenty of entities expressed their concern about FPS being not well-aligned with modern expectations from privacy standards. Brave, for example, pointed out in its article, that FPS has been withdrawn from W3C’s Privacy Community Group as a work item because it was perceived as a feature harming the user’s privacy, rather than the other way around. The article underlines the fact that the FPS mechanism “would allow companies to automatically track you across sites, and without proper notification or consent.” It also warns that if FPS gains traction in Chrome, by far the most popular browser in the world, many other independent browsers will be forced to implement it as well to be compatible with the Web, which will jeopardize users’ privacy (regardless of the browser they use).

Facebook parent Meta to settle Cambridge Analytica scandal case for $725 million – Reuters

= Reuters writes that Meta accepted a settlement offer in a class-action lawsuit. It involves Meta paying $725M for letting external entities access Facebook users’ personal information without their consent. This, according to the article, allowed Cambridge Analytica to use information from around 87M account owners to create voter profiles and target them accordingly in favor of Donald Trump’s campaign before the 2016 US presidential elections.

= An article by Context emphasizes that the so-called Cambridge Analytica scandal was an eye-opener for the wider public about how internet users can be manipulated into doing things more meaningful than buying a T-Shirt without their awareness or consent.   

Amazon is offering customers $2 per month for letting the company monitor the traffic on their phones – Business Insider

= Amazon launches an Ad Verification program as a part of its Shopper Panel in the US and UK, which will reward its users with $2 per month for allowing Amazon to collect and analyze their traffic data. The article states that by inviting selected users to join the program, Amazon aims to improve its personalized-ad experience but it is not clear what criteria it takes while choosing participants.

= The article mentions the industry experts’ concerns over how Amazon was going to handle users’ sensitive information and brings up similar cases from the past, where:

  • Facebook offered $20 gift cards to users who had installed the Facebook Research VPN app, which tracked their online activity
  • Google released Screenwise – a program that provided $5 Amazon gift cards to users who had installed a tracking extension in their Chrome browsers. The article also mentions yet another part of this program, which took it a step further and offered one-off $100 and $20 monthly for users to let Google set up a special router in their homes that tracked their behavior 

The article states that both programs were eventually concluded in 2019 because of privacy concerns.

If you have any questions, comments or issues, or you’re interested in meeting with us, please get in touch.