Google will stop selling ads based on your browsing history

Software giant Google has committed to stop the use of targeted advertising of individual users across its web-based products.

The company last year announced its intent to remove support for third-party cookies in Chrome, the world’s most popular Internet browser.

In basic terms, these cookies are small pieces of data stored on the user’s computer which record browsing activity. This information can then be used to curate advertising according to a specific user’s behaviour on the web.

Naturally, this powerful capability has formed an important part of Google’s ads business, as its customers rely on being able to cater ads to specific users to increase the likelihood of selling products or services.

In a blog post on Wednesday, Google’s Director of Product Management, Ads Privacy, and Trust David Temkin reiterated that the company will not be replacing third-party cookies with alternative user-level identifiers.

“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,” Temkin said.

He stated the need to deliver relevant ads to consumers across the web has created a proliferation of individual user data across thousands of companies.

The gathering of this information – which is typically done via third-party cookies – has led to an erosion of trust, Temkin said.

“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, according to a study by Pew Research Center,” he stated.

“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 added.

Alternative group-based technologies

Temkin said Google does not believe that alternative individual identifiers – such as PII graphs based on people’s email addresses – will be able to meet consumer expectations for privacy or stand up to evolving regulatory restrictions.

Instead, Google’s web products will be powered by privacy-preserving APIs which form part of its Privacy Sandbox initiative.

Temkin claimed these will prevent individual tracking while still delivering results for advertisers and publishers.

“Advances in aggregation, anonymisation, on-device processing and other privacy-preserving technologies offer a clear path to replacing individual identifiers,” Temkin stated.

According to Temkin, Google’s tests of interest-based advertising (FLoC) has 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.

Temkin said that Chrome intends to make FLoC-based cohorts available for public testing through origin trials with its next release this month, while testing FLoC-based cohorts with advertisers in Google Ads is expected to begin in the second quarter.

“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,” Temkin added.

Now read: Google Chrome adds custom user profiles

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Google will stop selling ads based on your browsing history