Google Embraces Privacy Controls for Chrome

Google announced new Chrome browser features regarding cookies and anti-fingerprinting technology that will give more control and privacy to users. The reason for the changes? “We’ve received consistent feedback from our users about the importance of transparency, choice and control, when it comes to data privacy on the web,” Google stated.

Chrome Cookie Control

Cookies are ubiquitous across the web. They are used to remember preferences, keep you logged into email and to track your activity across any sites you visit. For browsers, all cookies are the same, which makes it difficult for a browser to understand what the purpose of the cookie is—to help you or to follow you. Of course, cookies that track your browsing activity aren’t all evil, they’re merely tracking you to serve up personalized content and ads. Nevertheless, users want transparency and control. If a user wants to clear their browsing history, they are forced to clear all cookies, including those that remember their preferences. The new Chrome update will require developers to specify which cookies are allowed to work across websites and can be used to track users. This will result in only letting the website that originally put the cookie on your system to use the cookie, thereby making it harder for third-party companies to use these cookies to track you across the web (more on how this will impact digital advertising below). “This change will enable users to clear all such cookies while leaving single domain cookies unaffected, preserving user logins and settings. It will also enable browsers to provide clear information about which sites are setting these cookies, so users can make informed choices about how their data is used,” explained Google.

Chrome Anti-Fingerprinting Technology

Since people are trying to ensure their privacy and have resorted to cookie blocking, Google has seen some, “user-tracking efforts move underground, employing harder-to-detect methods that subvert cookie controls.” These methods are known as fingerprinting and Google will update Chrome so it can’t be passively fingerprinted, thereby allowing them to, “detect and intervene against active fingerprinting efforts as they happen.” When someone opts-out of third-party tracking, Google will now try to ensure that other companies don’t get around this request and track people anyway.

Impact on Digital Advertising

In a related announcement, Google Ads is committing to a new level of ad transparency and will build a browser extension that will provide the names of companies that, “were involved in the process that resulted in an ad—for example, ad tech companies that acted as intermediaries between the advertiser and publisher, and companies with ad trackers present in an ad.” This extension will also expose the factors that went into how an ad was tailored for you, which is about as transparent as digital advertising can get. This will undoubtably impact digital advertising as Google is also making an API available so other advertising companies can also make the same type of information available. We think that if Google is doing this, the impact will be positive. Since it gives control to people who don’t want to be tracked, and therefore don’t want personalized content nor ads, it means that advertisers won’t be targeted or have their brands negatively impacted for being perceived to engage in nefarious activities (i.e. tracking someone). Google has clearly decided that it is better for their brand, and better for their bottom line, to be transparent than to keep this type of information hidden and so, it likely will be better for all companies to follow suit.

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