In a major change to the core business model, Google said today that they plan to stop selling ads that depend on your individual browser history. In addition, it will not build any tools to track your specific data across products in the future. The announcements come after Google pledged to remove support for third-party cookies in Chrome, a move that would effectively kill the main source of data tracking for advertisers and sites. If Google stays true to its word, the future advertising business will not look like we’ve seen in recent decades.
“People should not have to accept being tracked all over the web to get the benefits of relevant advertising,”
It’s hard to understand this statement from Google, a company that has built an empire by monetizing your browser data. Looking ahead, Temkin says the search giant plans to use privacy-preserving APIs, such as the “Federated Learning of Cohorts API” (FloC), to deliver relevant ads. This solution will rely on groups of users with similar interests, rather than drilling down to your specific behavior.
He also points out that there may be other tracking techniques from other companies, including graphs based on email address. “We do not believe these solutions will meet growing consumer expectations of privacy, nor will they withstand rapid changing regulatory restrictions, and are therefore not a sustainable long-term investment,” Temkin noted.
Google plans to make FLoC-based cohorts available for testing in Chrome trials later this month, with its next update. And it aims to test these groups of advertisers in Google Ads in the second quarter. Chrome users will also have access to new privacy controls for users in April.
Although surprising, the data tracking changes make sense for Google in 2021, as the company faces increasing control from the EU, US and other governments. By making changes to their own terms, Google may try to avoid stricter privacy policies. After all, if it shows good faith in increasing data protection now, governments will not need so much to force their hand.