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Google’s Privacy-First Web Announcement

Google recently announced that it’s charting a course towards a more privacy-first web, with the phasing out of third-party tracking cookies. What does this now mean for some forms of targeted advertising, and what are the alternatives being made available?

The digital advertising industry has strived to deliver relevant ads to consumers across the web and in the process it has created a proliferation of individual user data across thousands of companies, typically gathered through third-party cookies.

This has led to an erosion of trust. According to a study by Pew Research Center, 72% of people feel that almost all of what they do online is being tracked by advertisers, technology firms or other companies and 81% say that 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, Google says that we risk the future of the free and open web.

Last year Google Chrome announced its intent to remove support for third-party cookies and since then Google 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.

Even so, Google continues to get questions about whether it will join others in the ad tech industry who plan to replace third-party cookies with alternative user-level identifiers. In a recent announcement it made explicit that once third-party cookies are phased out, it will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will it use them in their products. Instead, its web products will be powered by privacy-preserving APIs which prevent individual tracking while still delivering results for advertisers and publishers.

Google believes that privacy innovations are effective alternatives to tracking and people shouldn’t have to accept being tracked across the web in order to get the benefits of relevant advertising. Also, advertisers don’t need to track individual consumers across the web to get the performance benefits of digital advertising as advances in aggregation, anonymisation, on-device processing and other privacy-preserving technologies offer a clear path to replacing individual identifiers.

In fact, Google’s latest tests of Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) show one way to effectively take third-party cookies out of the advertising equation and instead hide individuals within large crowds of people with common interests. 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.

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.

It also believes that first-party relationships are vital as developing strong relationships with customers has always been critical for brands to build a successful business and this becomes even more vital in a privacy-first world. So keeping the internet open and accessible for everyone requires more action to protect privacy.

This means an end to not only third-party cookies, but also any technology used for tracking individual people as they browse the web. Google states it remains 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.

If you want to know more about how these changes to privacy on the web could impact you please get in touch.