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Britain launches second probe into Google's ad practices

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FILE PHOTO: The logo for Google LLC is seen at the Google Store Chelsea in Manhattan, New York City
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(Reuters) - Britain's competition regulator on Thursday launched its second probe into the advertising practices of Google, saying the Alphabet-owned search giant could be distorting competition and may have illegally favoured its own services.

The Competition and Markets Authority's (CMA) latest probe follows its into Google and Facebook owner-Meta's "Jedi Blue" agreement earlier this year.

Governments around the world are strengthening the regulation of U.S. tech giants that have become even more powerful during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are multiple investigations globally into their market positions, including in the United States and the European Union.

Britain imposed a new competition regime last year to prevent Google and Facebook using their dominance to push out smaller firms and disadvantage customers.

The move created a dedicated Digital Markets Unit within the CMA which could be given powers to suspend, block and reverse decisions made by technology firms and to impose financial penalties for non-compliance.

Companies were told they needed to be more transparent about how they used consumer data and that advertising practices needed to adapt to changing expectations around how data was collected and used.

The CMA said on Thursday it was examining three key parts of the ad tech stack chain, services that mediate ad tech, since Google owned the largest provider in each of those components.

"We're worried that Google may be using its position in ad tech to favour its own services to the detriment of its rivals, of its customers and ultimately of consumers," said CMA Chief Executive Andrea Coscelli in a .

A Google spokesperson told Reuters the company would continue to work with the CMA to answer its questions and share the details on how the company's systems work.

(Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Stockholm; Editing by Aditya Soni, Matt Scuffham and Mark Potter)

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