In a wholly unexpected move, Google plans to abandon third-party 'cookies', these locally stored tracers which allow it to sell ultra-personalized advertising spaces, but which raise the hackles of defenders of data confidentiality. The online browsing giant announced Wednesday (March 3) that it will test its new audience group-based ad targeting system with select advertisers starting in the second quarter of this year.
And end to cookies
So-called 'third party' cookies are small text files that collect data as you browse, and are used to target users with highly personalized ads. Synonymous with continuous tracking, they inspire a growing disgust, to the point that Europe and California, in particular, have adopted laws to better protect the confidentiality of personal information. David Temkin, head of advertising products and privacy at Google, said in a statement:
Today, we are explicitly saying that once third-party cookies are deleted, we will not build alternative identifiers to track individuals as they surf the web, nor will we use them in our products.
Audience segments instead
The Californian group is working on a different system, supposed to improve privacy. Instead of targeting Internet users individually, advertisers will target audience segments - the 'FLoCs' - comprising hundreds or thousands of people. Google will define these segments based on user navigation.
Individuals will be hidden in crowds of people who share the same interests.
Google is expected to earn 116.7 billion in net advertising revenue in 2021 alone (+ 18.4% over one year), or nearly 30% of this market, according to the firm eMarketer. Along with its neighbour Facebook, the two companies have imposed the economic model of large platforms that provide free services against the more or less explicit collection of information from their users.
David Temkin acknowledged that 'the proliferation of personal data among thousands of companies, usually collected by third-party cookies' has led to an 'erosion of trust.' The senior official even cites a study by the Pew Research Center, according to which more than 80% of Internet users consider that the potential risks of collecting their data outweigh the benefits.
If digital advertising does not evolve to address people's growing concerns about their privacy and how their personal identity is used, the future of the free and open web is threatened. All that remains is to restore Internet users' confidence in the use of their data.