UK competition watchdog to investigate Facebook and Google
Citing concerns about the power of major social networks, the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched a study into online platforms and the advertising market that supports them.
The study will assess the "broad potential sources of harm to consumers" in connection with digital advertising, including to what extent online platforms have market power in user-facing markets, and what impact this has on consumers.
It will also examine whether consumers are able to control how data about them is used and collected, and whether competition may be distorted by any market power held by the biggest platforms.
Currently, two companies - Google and Facebook - dominate adspend and are often referred to as 'the duopoly'. The latter has also come under fire for mishandling consumer data, which has led to calls for more regulatory oversight from governments and privacy campaigners globally.
"Much about these fast-changing markets is a closed book to most people," said CMA chairman, Andrew Tyrie.
"The work we do will open them up to greater scrutiny, and should give Parliament and the public a better grip on what global online platforms are doing."
The CMA said that if it finds evidence that there are problems, it could make detailed recommendations to government which build on the proposals from the Furman Report, an independent review which aired concerns about the dominance of tech giants and said the market suffered from a lack of transparency.
Commenting on the news, James Barge, director of public policy at ISBA, the trade body for UK advertisers, said there was a growing need on the client-side for "greater transparency" and "tougher" business standards in the online ad market.