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Google is about to do something great for users and terrible for advertisers

Published Jan 14th, 2020 6:32PM EST
Google Chrome
Image: Julien de Rosa/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

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Google may be about to spur a dramatic shake-up in the digital advertising ecosystem that’s gotten incrementally more invasive in the way it tracks users around the web and studies their behavior in order to serve them more and better ads.

The search giant via a company blog post on Tuesday announced that within two years it will have killed all support for third-party tracking cookies on the web, a move that follows similar clampdowns from Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox browsers. In Google’s case, signaling the change two years ahead of time is about figuring out how to address the legitimate needs of constituencies like publishers and advertisers while also balancing the inevitability of this change.

“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 wrote in Tuesday’s post. “Some browsers have reacted to these concerns by blocking third-party cookies, but we believe this has unintended consequences that can negatively impact both users and the web ecosystem.”

This all stems from Google’s announcement back in August of its so-called Privacy Sandbox initiative, Schuh continues, which involves the company trying to help develop a new set of open standards to enhance privacy on the web — indeed, to use this open-source initiative as a springboard for making the web “more private and secure for users, while also supporting publishers.”

Of course, Google closing off a way for advertisers to make money in this fashion could end up sparking antitrust concerns, since Google’s Chrome browser is the most popular in the world — with a nearly 70% worldwide market share, according to a recent analysis from Statista. Moreover, this news comes one day before the version of Microsoft’s Edge browser that’s based on Chrome’s web browsing engine starts rolling out. And, as CNBC notes, that browser will have “tracking prevention” enabled from the outset.

For the moment, according to Schuh’s post, this effort remains a work in progress at Google: “By undermining the business model of many ad-supported websites, blunt approaches to cookies encourage the use of opaque techniques such as fingerprinting (an invasive workaround to replace cookies), which can actually reduce user privacy and control. We believe that we as a community can, and must, do better.”

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.