Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc. has confirmed that in the next two years, it will begin to block the most common - and highly lucrative - means of businesses tracking potential customers online: cookies.
While announcing the move, Google stated its intention to block cookies in its Chrome browser, used by hundreds of millions worldwide, as well as endorsing “costly changes to how the Web operates as it tries to satisfy increased privacy demands from users,” according to a Reuters report.
“Users are demanding greater privacy - including transparency, choice, and control over how their data is used- and it’s clear the web ecosystem needs to evolve to meet these increasing demands,” Director of Chrome Engineering, Justin Schuh.
For the uninitiated, according to Reuters’ reporting, “for nearly three decades, cookies placed by relatively unknown companies on nearly early website has fueled advertising on the internet. Cookies are a tool within browsers that allow website operators to save data about users, so that for example, they can keep a particular user logged into a website over multiple days.”
Google made the announcement via a blog post titled “Building a more private web: a path towards making third party cookies obsolete,” from Director of Chrome Engineering, Justin Schuh, which can be accessed here.
“After initial dialogue with the web community, we are confident that with continued iteration and feedback, privacy-preserving and open-standard mechanisms like the Privacy Sandbox can sustain a healthy, ad-supported web in a way that will render third-party cookies obsolete.”
“We have developed the tools to mitigate workarounds [and] we plan to phase out support for third-party cookies in Chrome. We plan to start the first origin trails by the end of this year,” Schuh wrote.
Cookies also allow software vendors who offer their technology to websites to capture significant amounts of data on the visitor. This is then shared with advertisers looking to make their advertising more targetted through accurate data prediction models based on the user’s interests, likes, page visits and time spent on the page, etc. This targetted model, however, is beginning to draw the ire from privacy advocates and everyday internet users alike, citing concerns over the misuse of data collected and the exponentially increasing volume of the data collected.
“Users are demanding greater privacy - including transparency, choice and control over how their data is used - and it’s clear the web ecosystem needs to evolve to meet these increasing demands,” Google’s Justin Schuh said.
Reuters is reporting that “Google’s plan is to restrict advertising software companies and other organisations from connecting their browser cookies to websites they do not operate,” mirroring a 2017 move from Apple with its Safari browser; Google’s market share of the browser market is around three-times larger, however, at around 64% according to Statcounter’s statistics.
The news is likely to impact Google itself very little, considering the vast amount of user data it collects through other means, but for rival advertising software companies, on the other hand, the news came as less than welcomed. According to Reuters, Criteo SA and Trade Desk Inc stock fell by 8% and 1.4% respectively following the news going public.
“We look forward to building a more trustworthy and sustainable web together,” he wrote in the post, adding that the company was “working actively across the ecosystem so that browsers, publishers, developers and advertisers have the opportunity to experiment with these new mechanisms, test whether they work well in various situations and develop supporting implementations.”