Google antitrust lawsuit amended to target Chrome’s Privacy Sandbox

Five more attorneys general have joined the suit, taking the total to 15.

BEIJING, CHINA - MARCH 10 2021: A view of the company logo outside the building hosting Google's Beijing office March 10, 2021. PHOTOGRAPH BY Feature China / Barcroft Studios / Future Publishing (Photo credit should read Feature China/Barcroft Media via Getty Images) (Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

An antitrust lawsuit against Google has been amended to take into account changes to ad tracking in Chrome. Texas attorney general Ken Paxton announced the multi-state suit, which focuses on Google's advertising tech, in December. Meanwhile, five more attorneys general (from Alaska, Florida, Montana, Nevada and Puerto Rico) have joined the lawsuit, for a total of 15.

The AGs claim that Google harnessed its dominant market positions in search, video and other areas to kill off smaller ad networks and effectively require advertisers to use its platform. The updated suit includes a section about Google's Privacy Sandbox, which is partly about using anonymized data to deliver relevant ads to large groups. Google plans to block third-party tracking cookies in Chrome by 2022.

The lawsuit accuses Google of hiding "its true intentions behind a pretext of privacy" and suggests that the changes put "Google’s Chrome browser at the center of tracking and targeting. "It notes Google's plans to "disable the primary cookie-tracking technology almost all non-Google publishers currently use to track users and target ads" and argues that the move would force "pressure advertisers to shift to Google money otherwise spent on smaller publishers," such as local newspapers.

"Attorney General Paxton’s latest claims mischaracterize many aspects of our business, including the steps we are taking with the Privacy Sandbox initiative to protect people’s privacy as they browse the web," Google told Engadget in a statement. "These efforts have been welcomed by privacy advocates, advertisers and our own rivals as a step forward in preserving user privacy and protecting free content. We will strongly defend ourselves from AG Paxton’s baseless claims in court."

The UK also announced an investigation into Privacy Sandbox earlier this year.

Google recently revealed the next phase of its plan to block cookies while sustaining its advertising business. It said that it would stop selling ads based on individual browsing history and that it would no longer make tools to track a user's data across its own products.

Update 3/16 4:44PM ET: Added Google's statement.