Google is planning to unveil its own ad tracking technology to replace today’s third-party cookies. The move would potentially give people more privacy while browsing the web — or at least more of a say in how companies use personal information.
And, of course, make Google even more powerful in digital advertising.
Cookies are a major controversy in Europe, where sites must disclose their use and obtain permission from visitors before setting a cookie in a visitor’s web browser. They’re also something that have caused plenty of commotion on this side of the Atlantic, since third-party cookies reveal your browsing habits and plenty more to sites that you don’t even visit.
But they’re also a vital piece of the online ad industry that inform advertisers’ purchasing decisions and track their return on investment. Now Google is planning to reinvent cookies, or at least offer a Google alternative to existing third-party cookies, according to an unsourced report in USA Today.
The new technology would only be open to companies and ad networks that agree to a certain standard of conduct, according to the report. And it would give people a centralized place from which they could set guidelines and boundaries over the use of their personal information.
Google is in a sense the natural company to do this.
It is, after all, the company that takes in one-third of the $100-billion global online advertising market — and even more, 56 percent, of all mobile ad revenue. Via its dominance in search, Google presides over the most valuable and most purchase-intent-driven ads in the world. And Google controls the most popular browser in the world, with over 50 percent market share.
But Google is also the company that ignored privacy settings on the iPhone when Apple created it’s own ad-tracking technology and set cookies on mobile Safari against users’ express wishes.
The very fact that it did such as thing demonstrates how absolutely critical tracking technology is for the advertising industry online and in mobile. And that Google already controls the browser that the majority of the planet uses to access the web, and benefits most from the advertising activity that takes place on the web and in mobile apps, is enough to make some people uneasy.
It would, after all, be a lot of power concentrated in just one set of multicolored hands.
I’ve asked Google for a comment on the report. A representative simply stated:
“We believe that technological enhancements can improve users’ security while ensuring the web remains economically viable. We and others have a number of concepts in this area, but they’re all at very early stages.”