Search engine giant Google has revealed plans to make obsolete an important tool used by advertisers for tracking users around the Internet. While this move will increase user privacy, it will also disrupt the publishers and marketers who are currently reliant on the company’s advertising products.
Google, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., stated that it would cease extending support to 3rd party cookies, which are widely used in the Chrome browser. The company revealed these plans via a blog post on Tuesday.
For the uninitiated, cookies are small pieces of code, which embed themselves in people’s web browsers and record their browsing activity.
They are extremely important in several online advertising strategies since they help advertisers target users with advertisements for sites that they had previously visited. They were also useful for evaluating the effectiveness of certain advertisements in attracting web users to purchase a product or a service.
Third-party web cookies are already blocked by Firefox and Safari, which belong to Mozilla Corp. and Apple Inc. respectively. However, Google has often argued against such an approach before as being extremely heavy-handed. It claims that adopting such measures would reduce the revenue earned by Internet publishers. It is important to note that this change will be phased in after 2 years and include input from online advertisers and ad networks.
Google Chrome happens to be the biggest web browser in the US, with over 50% Internet users using Chrome, as per StatCounter. Firefox has only 4% whereas Safari has over 37% market share.
In a blog post released on Tuesday, Justin Schuh, the Engineering Director of Chrome stated that blocking 3rd-party cookies would likely have several unintended consequences, which could impact the entire Internet ecosystem and its users in a negative manner. Google is currently seeking input from Chrome users, publishers, and advertisers in a bid to balance both its privacy and online advertising obligations.
Schuh stated that users were demanding better privacy safeguards – including transparency, control & choice over their personal data recorded by Google. The Internet ecosystem needed to evolve further for catering to these demands, he said.
Google executives have mentioned such an approach before. Mozilla and Apple don’t earn anything significant from advertising. However, most of the company’s revenues come from digital advertisements. The company has a huge stake in the pie and needs to promote additional spending by advertisers on its ad products. Targeted advertising is at the very heart of Google’s empire.
Google is facing a number of major threats at the moment, including government-led investigations seeking to know whether it uses anti-competitive business practices to lead the advertising tech world and demand from various quarters for more privacy safeguards.
If it starts shutting out advertisers from the system excessively, they could start complaining about Google’s practices being unfair. However, ignoring the privacy activists could cause some Chrome browser users to switch to other Internet browsers.