The number of web trackers operating in the European Union since the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has declined by up to 31%, but new research suggests that Google is getting access to even more data than before.
Many people within the advertising industry had expected the GDPR’s transparency provisions to curtail Google and other tech giants when it came to the collection of personal information.
But according to privacy software firms Cliqz and Ghostery, Google “benefits indirectly” from the effects of the GDPR because it “seems to have successfully taken advantage of the uncertainty around GDPR to further solidify its leading market position”.
As explained in a blog post by Cliqz editor Björn Greif, the two companies reached this conclusion after comparing the prevalence of trackers in Europe from April to July of this year – a before and after test of the impact of the GDPR, which came into force on 25th May.
They used their shared WhoTracks.me tool, which was able to analyse the top 2,000 domains in Europe, including around 300 million page loads and more than half a million websites.
The analysis revealed that small advertising trackers lost between 18% and 31% of their reach, yet Facebook’s trackers declined by just 7% while Google actually increased its reach slightly by 1%.
Drilling down into web categories, the research found that trackers on news sites declined 7.5% over the period, they decreased 6.9% on e-commerce sites and fell by 6.7% on recreation sites. Only banking sites saw an increase (7.4%), but they average only 2.6 trackers per page.
“For users this means that while the number of trackers asking for access to their data is decreasing, a tiny few (including Google) are getting even more of their data,” the report said.
Cliqz and Ghostery suggested that Google and other large tech companies may have had the advantage of scale and the necessary resources to ensure compliance with the GDPR.
Another possible explanation was that Google might have used its dominant market position to encourage publishers to reduce the number of trackers on their sites and therefore the number of ad tech rivals.
It’s also possible that website owners preferred to “play it safe” by dropping smaller advertisers who may have found it harder to prove compliance.
Sourced from Cliqz, Ghostery; additional content by WARC staff