Google’s plan to include a button “deny everything” on cookie banners after its policy in place breached EU law has been hailed by Hamburg’s data protection commissioner, who presented his progress report on Thursday (April 7).

Google will probably first introduce such an option in France, which has already imposed fines on the American giant and Facebook, before implementing it in Germany.

“Google told us that they now want to establish this ‘opt out’ button step by step in the European Union, Switzerland and the United Kingdom”Hamburg’s Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, Thomas Fuchs, said on Wednesday (April 6) when presenting his 2021 activity report.

Mr. Fuchs is now also considering approaching Facebook, whose German headquarters, like Google’s, is in Hamburg, which puts him under his authority.

Google’s decision follows numerous criticisms and fines. The American giant’s previous argument, that consenting to cookies with a single click takes much less effort than refusing them, does not comply with the requirements of data protection legislation.

Google has stated that it will stop using cookies from third-party providers by 2023. Instead, the company is working on the Topics application programming interface (API), where no more data will be transferred to third-party vendors or Google’s servers.

Data protection issues

Last week, Mr Fuchs wrote to Google asking it to revise its cookie banner policy for failing to comply with data protection requirements.

Cookie banners can be annoying for users who usually just close them, implying their consent. However, in order to truly opt out of tracking cookies, many selections must be made, which takes significantly longer.

“The good news is that there is now a written commitment from Google” to make a one-click button available by default, Fuchs also said.

The CNIL, the French data protection authority, previously fined Google €150 million and Facebook €60 million. “Refusing cookies should be as easy as accepting them”according to one of the main principles of the CNIL.

Asked by EURACTIV, Google said it was determined to make further changes and actively cooperate with the CNIL.

Cookie phase-out plans

Google’s introduction of the button“deny everything” will probably only be an interim solution, as the American giant already presented far-reaching plans at the end of January to completely remove Google cookies from third-party providers by 2023.

Instead of cookies, the internet giant wants to rely on internal tracking technology for the Google Privacy Sandbox project.

Part of the Google Privacy Sandbox project is called Topics API, and it provides for Chrome to save the five topics each week ( topics) the most representative of the main interests of users. These themes are updated every seven days, and older data is deleted every three weeks.

Advertisers would be able to display advertising content based on the three most important themes. According to Google, these preferences would be stored directly on the device, and therefore no data would be transmitted to third-party providers or Google’s servers. Users will be able to view, edit, or completely disable their primary themes.

The theme panel, which is currently under development, has entered a testing phase. Starting March 31, developers can test the Topics API in the Canary version of Chrome. In Europe, users can register to participate in trials.

Google’s plans to change its privacy policy — also for Android — are feared by competitors who see it as an exploitation of its dominant market position. The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) therefore launched an investigation last year to assess the possible impact of the new privacy settings on the advertising market.

As a result of this investigation, Google made several commitments, such as to refrain from listing itself and to offer regulatory oversight to UK competition and data protection authorities. The CMA has accepted these commitments and will ensure their implementation.

Google will change the privacy policy on Android

Google is expanding itsPrivacy Sandbox to Android devices and the UK’s competition watchdog is set to play a crucial role in ensuring the tech giant doesn’t abuse its dominant market position in the process.