Google on Wednesday said it will not build “alternate identifiers” to track individuals as they browse across the web nor will use them in its products once third-party cookies are phased out, as the tech giant progresses towards a more “privacy-first web”.
In January last year, Google had announced that it will phase out use of third-party cookies – typically used to track users on the web – in Chrome within two years.
In a blogpost, Google highlighted that there has been a proliferation of individual user data across thousands of companies, typically gathered through third-party cookies, and that this has led to an “erosion of trust”.
It cited data from Pew Research Centre that said a large majority of people feel that almost all of what they do online is being tracked by advertisers, technology firms or other companies, and many say the potential risks they face because of data collection outweigh the benefits.
“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. That’s why last year, Chrome announced its intent to remove support for third-party cookies,” Google said.
The company added that it has been working with the broader industry on the ‘Privacy Sandbox’ to build innovations that protect anonymity, while still delivering results for advertisers and publishers.
“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 said.
The company noted that while other providers may offer a level of user identity for ad tracking across the web that it doesn’t, these solutions will not meet rising consumer expectations for privacy, nor will they stand up to rapidly evolving regulatory restrictions.
Therefore, these aren’t a sustainable long term investment, it emphasised.
Google said advances in aggregation, anonymisation, on-device processing and other privacy-preserving technologies offer a clear path to replacing individual identifiers.
Chrome intends to make FLoC-based cohorts available for public testing through origin trials with its next release this month, and expects to begin testing FLoC-based cohorts with advertisers in Google Ads in the second quarter.
FLoC or Federated Learning of Cohorts proposes a new way for businesses to reach people with relevant content and ads by clustering large groups of people with similar interests. This approach effectively hides individuals in the crowd and uses on-device processing to keep a person’s web history private on the browser.
Chrome also will offer the first iteration of new user controls in April and will expand on these controls in future releases, as more proposals reach the origin trial stage, and they receive more feedback from end users and the industry, it said.
“This points to a future where there is no need to sacrifice relevant advertising and monetisation in order to deliver a private and secure experience….We remain committed to preserving a vibrant and open ecosystem where people can access a broad range of ad-supported content with confidence that their privacy and choices are respected,” it said.
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