Google Says It Wants a “Privacy-First” Web

Posted on March 3, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Google, Google Chrome with 32 Comments

Google today acknowledged that the proliferation of advertising-based tracking on the web has eroded the trust of its users. And so this company, which earns over 80 percent of its revenues from advertising, now says it will improve privacy and reduce online tracking while protecting its digital advertising business. Somehow.

“As our industry has strived to deliver relevant ads to consumers across the web, it has created a proliferation of individual user data across thousands of companies, typically gathered through third-party cookies,” Google’s David Temkin writes. “72 percent of people feel that almost all of what they do online is being tracked by advertisers, technology firms[,] or other companies, and 81 percent say that the potential risks they face because of data collection outweigh the benefits, according to a study by Pew Research Center.”

Last year, Google updated Chrome so that it no longer supports third-party cookies, and the firm has been working with the industry to create a Privacy Sandbox that will “protect anonymity while still delivering results for advertisers and publishers.” And while it’s unclear how Google could ever find a happy middle ground between the needs of those two customers—users and advertisers—the firm says now that it doesn’t really need to do much more to protect its users’ privacy.

“We continue to get questions about whether Google will join others in the ad tech industry who plan to replace third-party cookies with alternative user-level identifiers,” Temkin continues. “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.”

So what’s Google’s alternative? Its products will instead be powered by “privacy-preserving APIs” that prevent individual tracking while still supporting the needs of its advertisers.

“Advances in aggregation, anonymization, on-device processing[,] and other privacy-preserving technologies offer a clear path to replacing individual identifiers,” Temkin claims. “There is no need to sacrifice relevant advertising and monetization in order to deliver a private and secure experience … Keeping the internet open and accessible for everyone requires all of us to do more to protect privacy, and that means an end to not only third-party cookies, but also any technology used for tracking individual people as they browse the web.”

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Comments (35)

35 responses to “Google Says It Wants a “Privacy-First” Web”

  1. Avatar

    yoshi

    Google and privacy go together about as well as water and a Gremlin.

  2. Avatar

    b6gd

    Made me smile :). I opt for a Google Free product selection and I know I am better off making that choice.

  3. Avatar

    Stokkolm

    we will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will we use them in our products.” That's because they've already built them, they're called Chrome, Google Maps, Youtube, etc...

  4. Avatar

    JerryH

    I don't know that it even matters at this point. It isn't going to help them fix the fact that I can go browse Amazon for say some new running shoes, purchase them, and then get advertisements for those shoes on every web site for the next 6 months. I already bought them! Stupid advertisers - that is what they think are relevant ads. And yet they are ads that have no chance for success since I don't need shoes I already bought.

  5. Avatar

    scovious

    This is like trusting China to spearhead human rights. I resent the concept that there are "needs of advertisers" that go beyond what promoters had before the internet.

  6. Avatar

    bmcdonald

    So glad that I ditched Chrome after following some of Paul's advice from last year. I do not mind giving a minimal amount of data to Microsoft via Edge or Office 365 - at least I care and rely on those products as daily drivers.


    But Google? People need to understand what the end game here is and it's certainly not privacy - that's for sure.


    B

  7. Avatar

    jlariviere

    Oh, Google, what was your clue? The number of installs of AdBLock, Ghostery, or similar extensions? The number of people enabling the "block malware, tracking, ads" feature of their VPNs?

  8. Avatar

    kjb434

    This is Google corralling everybody to use their advertising services since they fight against all the others existing.


    Google is doing this not further privacy the user. It's doing this to keep users private from everybody else.


    Happily de-Googled my life.

  9. Avatar

    Belralph

    Who needs cookies when a vast majority of the internet is using your DNS servers.

  10. Avatar

    robincapper

    Google Says It Wants a “Privacy-First” Web? Start with sorting Android security

  11. Avatar

    spiderman2

    RTOFL ... yeah... sure sure sure... LOL


    that's the best joke of the month

  12. Avatar

    crunchyfrog

    So in other words, the pressure from governments worldwide and privacy organizations are finally making Google sweat so they'll agree to play nice so they don't get booted or severely restricted from their core business. Meanwhile, they will work on new ways of doing old things but with a new name.

  13. Avatar

    webdev511

    For some reason this is a bit difficult to believe. Even as I look at the nineteen different JavaScripts embeded on even this site as a paying subscriber I know that they aren't all required, but there they are...

  14. Avatar

    wright_is

    Too little, too late, for me.

  15. Avatar

    anoldamigauser

    The irony of this is too much.

    We have met the enemy, and he is us.

  16. Avatar

    ronv42

    Let me get this right. Google wants to be the gatekeeper of the APIs for tracking and it would allow trusted scribers to the information pay for the tracking data? Isn't that their normal approach to their advertising services?

  17. Avatar

    red.radar

    Call me a cynic.


    This is about consolidating and fortifying the ability to track through the next generation of mechanisms. Google wants to ensure they hold the keys so they release good sounding PR that is nothing but lies so behind the scene they can make their move.



    • Avatar

      dashrender

      In reply to red.radar:And while it’s unclear how Google could ever find a happy middle ground between the needs of those two customers—users and advertisers—

      ^ This.... This is the lie... users of google services are NOT customers, they are the product. UNLESS, you are paying for something of Google's, say like storage in Google Drive, then from a Drive POV, you're a customer - but for gmail, or search or maps, etc -the USER is most definitely NOT a customer, but the product.


    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      Seems more logical than cynical. You don't turn your back on 80 percent of your revenues.
  18. Avatar

    divodd

    Watching the pro-privacy crowd over the last few years work to slowly ruin everything that made the web great by turning it into a world of PlaySkool sandboxes and lonely silos instead of the forefront of data analysis is extremely sad

  19. Avatar

    madthinus

    Let me summarise: they have figured it out. Having 60% of the web using their Browser is no accident.

  20. Avatar

    Calibr21

    Somehow I feel the endgame for all the privacy efforts by Apple and Google is that 3rd parties will no longer have access to any type of tracking info to sell, but all that data will be concentrated in the hands of apple and google.


    Once 3rd party competition is eliminated, Apple and Google will now have the data broker business cornered and “responsibly sell” access to that data.

  21. Avatar

    merlinv

    I really can't see Google, Turning its back on what made them rich. This is PR that is expected from a tech giant - so it can try to save face in front of its peers.

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