In welcome news for more privacy on the Internet, Google announced this week it will stop tracking users and selling ads based on their browsing histories by 2022 but this will not apply to mobile phone apps.
The tech giant said it will stop using and investing in technologies which track users on its Chrome browsers as they move from site to site by next year. Google has been working on the removal of third-party cookies which provide the technology for this type of tracking for decades.
It’s these third party cookies which have caused a great deal of concern over the privacy of the Internet so this change is welcome news. However, Google will still be able to track how people use its other services like Search, Maps and YouTube. As well, this change will only apply to ad tools and identifiers for websites and not for mobile apps.
Alphabet Inc, Google’s parent company, said that it will stop investing in tracking technologies and confirmed it will not replace third-party cookies with similar cross-site tracking technology.
Google has been tracking our browsing history for decades
For years, online ad technology companies including Google have been able to tell retailers to personalise an ad to someone after having tracked that person’s searches the week before. But without third-party cookies or technologies like them, tracking across multiple websites won’t work.
In a company blog post, David Temkin, Google’s director of product management for ads privacy and trust, said: ‘Today, we’re making explicit that once third-party cookies are phased out, we will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will we use them in our products.”
Google’s Chrome browser is the world’s dominant web browser. Google accounted for 52 percent of global digital ad spending in 2020 with nearly $152 billion, according to digital-ad consulting group Jounce Media.
Critics concerned Google could be developing new features
Critics of Google have said the company could be stopping rivals from building detailed profiles of users but at the same time be developing new features for it’s own use in Chrome.
But Temkin countered this criticism in his blog post, saying Google will not develop ways to work around the removal of third party cookies for itself and saying the company is committed to allowing targeting ads based on data companies receive directly from consumers.
“If digital advertising doesn’t evolve to address the growing concerns people have about their privacy and how their personal identity is being used, we risk the future of the free and open web,” he wrote.
Google is trying to keep up with other major browsers such as Firefox and Safari. Firefox has a Do Not Track feature which tells every website you visit, their advertisers, and content providers that you don’t want your browsing behavior tracked.
What does Google propose for the future?
Since proposing these changes, Google says it’s now testing a way for businesses to target ads to clusters of consumers with similar interests. It says this would protect privacy because it hides individual users in a crowd.
As we’ve mentioned before, Google’s plans to stop tracking users browsing does have some exceptions. Websites will still be able to track ‘first-party’ data which comes directly from a customer’s activity on a specific site.
Advertisers on Google’s services will also be allowed to continue targeting ads to specific clients for whom they already have contact information.