Sunday, 11 April 2021

The way the cookie crumbles: Google rejects new tracking methods

by Harry Baldock, Total Telecom
Thursday 04 March 21

The internet giant says it plans to end the use of tracking cookies in Chrome and will seek higher privacy alternatives

The debate surrounding tracking cookies has been raging among web browser companies for some time now, as regulators increasingly crackdown on online privacy. Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox, for example, already block tracking cookies by default, but Google and its browser Chrome have been somewhat more adverse to the idea, instead suggesting in 2019 that they would phase out third…

The debate surrounding tracking cookies has been raging among web browser companies for some time now, as regulators increasingly crackdown on online privacy. Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox, for example, already block tracking cookies by default, but Google and its browser Chrome have been somewhat more adverse to the idea, instead suggesting in 2019 that they would phase out third-party cookies over the following two years. 
 
Now, Google has gone one step further, promising not to replace the tracking cookies with any technology that is equally as invasive, saying they “will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web”.
 
Google claims that it wanted to allow internet users a higher level of privacy, thus further investments in tracking techniques would be simply unviable.
 
"We don't believe these solutions will meet rising consumer expectations for privacy, nor will they stand up to rapidly evolving regulatory restrictions, and therefore aren't a sustainable long-term investment," said the company in a blog post.
 
However, this is not to say that Google will not be discarding targetted advertising altogether, at least for its own products. In fact, the company is currently developing the Privacy Sandbox, which will work by grouping together people with similar interests and showing adds to those cohorts rather than individuals. This should ultimately allow for the individuals themselves to be hidden in the virtual “crowd”.
 
Currently, Google expects this alternative to be almost equally as effective at delivering targeted ads as tracking cookies, citing an expectation of 95% of the conversions per dollar spent when compared to cookie-based advertising.
 
This new method will be available for public testing later this month.
 
For online advertisers, this move is potentially threatening to upend a major industry where an individual’s data can find its way to thousands of companies. Some critics have even expressed concerns that this will in fact give Google even more of a strangle hold over users data, allowing them unfair access while excluding competitors.
 
"You have one large trillion-dollar company that effectively, through an unfair contract... tracks you more of the time, the only difference is you're going to be logged in, and part of their walled garden," James Rosewell, Director of Marketers for an Open Web, told the BBC.
 
"How does that make people more private, or more secure, versus something that doesn't have directly identifiable information - their name, their email address - it just uses a random string of characters?"
 
A shift away from tracking cookies now appears inevitable, but this is far from the end of personalised ads.
 
 
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