Google’s new move is good for internet users, bad for advertisers

Google has announced a plan to move away from third party cookies, with the initiative behind the move (Privacy Sandbox) set to take its place. The aim, according to Google, is to “make the web more private and secure” for users—while still supporting the businesses of publishers.

As a quick reminder, cookies are small files that contain information—when you visit a website, a cookie gets sent to your computer by the site, which is then stored inside your web browser. These cookies contain login information, site settings, and other details, and third party cookies, in particular, consist of information that can be used for ad targeting—but have been subject to privacy concerns in recent times.

Privacy Sandbox, instead, utilises machine learning to study the browsing habits of users who are grouped based on similar browsing patterns. The information is then stored in your browser, unlike cookies (which are stored in your computer).

In a nutshell, it appears that privacy is the name of the game here. We’ll still see targeted ads and browsing patterns will still be tracked, but third party cookies won’t be a part of the picture anymore. According to Justin Schuh, Director of Chrome Engineering at Google:

“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.”

Not everyone is happy

According to a report from Adweek, certain parties in the advertising industry aren’t thrilled with the move. Disappointment over the “unilateral” nature of Google’s announcement has been made clear by a statement from advertisers, while others have murmured that Google is looking to solidify their claim on an ad monopoly—or oligopoly, with regards to Facebook.

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It’s worth noting that Google’s statement seems to indicate a “path” towards making 3rd party cookies obsolete, rather than an absolute move away from them right now. Trials are to begin in 2020, and it seems logical to infer that Google will only remove 3rd party cookies once Privacy Sandbox gets off the ground—whenever that is.

Similar moves have already been made by Apple and Mozilla with their browsers, but Google says that simply blocking 3rd party cookies can have “unintended consequences”. These include workarounds such as “fingerprinting”, technology that identifies aspects of your device, and tracks you based on those identifiers—an invasive workaround.

An improvement for users’ privacy? Or part of a larger strategy by Google to further dominate the ad space? Probably a little bit of both, to be fair.

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