Google worked with Facebook to undermine Apple's attempts to offer its users greater privacy protections, complaint alleges

Facebook and Google collaborated to bypass Apple's privacy controls. Twelve state attorneys general presented an updated legal complaint starting in 2020.
Apple's privacy tools make it difficult for other tech companies that can pinpoint users to use their ad-auction model.

Regulators and tech companies have been pursuing each other in an antitrust war over market dominance, user privacy, and ad technology.

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Google collaborated with Facebook to defeat Apple's efforts to provide great privacy protections to its users, twelve state attorneys general claimed in an update of an antitrust suit against the search engine.

The amended complaint states that the companies had been working together to improve Facebook’s ability to recognize users who use blocked cookies on Apple devices and Apple's Safari browser. "This allowed one Big Tech company to be able to offer users greater privacy and thereby circumventing its efforts to compete."

In December 2020, the attorneys general filed the first lawsuit against Google accusing it of market collusion. The suit focused on claims that Apple and Facebook had agreed to cooperate in the event their pact was ever subject to regulatory scrutiny.

The attorneys general also charged Google and Facebook with violating an illegal advertising agreement. Google leveraged monopoly power in its adtech business to help Facebook bid better in ad auctions. This would allow Facebook content to appear in greater numbers of Google Ads.

Facebook spokesperson stated in an email that the company has supported transparent and fair advertising auctions where all bidders compete simultaneously and the highest bidder is victor. "Facebook's nonexclusive bidding agreement, as well as similar agreements with other bidding platforms have increased competition for ad placements.

According to employees at Facebook, the complaint was filed in 2019. It stated that the company was having difficulty matching users using Apple's Safari browser. While Google claimed that Facebook's match rates for users were similar to other ad auction companies, Facebook employees pointed out that jаvascript could be used to assist Facebook in better recognizing these users.

Although the attorneys general claimed that Facebook had essentially lured Google into the deal with its ads, Google disputes the claims.

Insider reached out to Apple and Google representatives but they did not respond to our Sunday requests for comment.

Apple has increased its privacy efforts in recent years. Apple introduced privacy protection measures in its products like Safari 2018 that required websites to request tracking privileges and remove cookies if the site was not visited within 30 days.

Apple launched its App Tracking Transparency tool this summer. It allows users to opt in/out of tracking via different apps. This has a significant impact on companies like Facebook. The Safari privacy report provided details on how websites track users.

These three companies have been the subject of numerous antitrust discussions and are currently facing government regulators. In June, the Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against Facebook alleging that the company had monopolized the social networking market. However, the suit was dropped by a federal judge. Facebook was also said to be preparing an antitrust suit against Apple regarding its App Store rules. It claimed that Apple was restricting third-party app developers.

In June, Congress also introduced five bills to regulate tech, focusing on the "Big Four", Facebook, Google and Apple. These bills would give regulators more tools to prevent tech companies from monopolizing too many market shares.

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