How will Google replace cookies tracking?

It appears we might finally have a bit more insight into this question as some recent soundings have been issued about how any changes might be implemented. In our latest blog post, we’ll take a closer focus on this and what it could mean for individuals’ privacy, as well as advertisers.

Google is going to be moving away from third party cookie tracking. This is not new news, as it has been something which has been announced before. What is new (and perhaps until now unclear,) is what that change is going to look like and how it will manifest itself. Google have announced that they will be moving towards what they call a ‘topic-based structure,’ with this they believe striking a balance between protecting individual’s privacy, as well as still being able to benefit advertisers.

What exactly will topics look like?

We understand that from your browsing habits, a picture will start to be built of the topics and themes you regularly look at. This could be based on data from a weeks worth of your browsing history. This data is only designed to be kept for a maximum of three weeks then it will be deleted. In addition, we understand that during any of this process, there will be no communication with any external servers. Once those topics are chosen, there will be a maximum of 3 (one topic per week from your browsing history.) These will then be shared with advertising partners, forming the basis of how it will work.

Google claims that this will help protect privacy because rather than focusing precisely on individuals behaviour or browsing habits, generalised topics will be provided instead.

Still not the perfect answer?

Even if this system is better, there will still be considerations to look at. Google claims that currently, it will restrict these topics to no more than 350, enhancing privacy by making it very difficult for someone to be tracked or pinpointed individually. It has been claimed however that were that number to increase, it would have the opposite effect potentially, so this is something that would need to be carefully monitored.

Another (perhaps bigger question,) is where Google itself comes into these changes. It is all well and good these changes applying to advertisers and third parties, but will Google abide by the enhanced protections to individuals as well? Or, will it use the data to try and get some kind of advantage over everyone else? This is not clear, nor has it been addressed by Google yet. There is obvious moral, ethical and legal factors here, so this is something that will definitely need to be addressed.

Concluding thoughts

On the face of it, this does seem like a proposal which is a step towards privacy whilst still balancing the interests of advertisers and third parties. As clearly demonstrated however, there are still currently loopholes even in this approach, which would make any plan for real change rather diluted. The trouble with this topic is that it is one that is very difficult to balance, even impossible. The only way a user will have ultimate privacy, is for no one to have access to browsing habits and data. For commercial reasons alone, this is something unlikely to happen, so how far this problem can ever really be addressed is a matter of steps rather than totality.

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