Google is not a company most people would associate with privacy, but it has announced plans to help improve the privacy of Chrome users. The aim is to make third-party cookies obsolete with a new set of standards.
Tracking cookies are commonly used by advertisers to gather information about people to help deliver better targeted ads – but the information gathered can also undermine privacy. In Safari, Apple chose to simply block third-party cookies, Google says this simply encouraged advertisers and other companies to use more subversive methods of tracking.
Justin Schuh, director of Chrome Engineering, explains: “We’re developing techniques to detect and mitigate covert tracking and workarounds by launching new anti-fingerprinting measures to discourage these kinds of deceptive and intrusive techniques, and we hope to launch these measures later this year.”
Google is not going to just jump in and make changes willy-nilly; it makes a lot of money from advertising and needs to keep advertisers happy. In developing new standards and a new web ecosystem, the company says it will work with publishers, developers and advertisers to help build “a more trustworthy and sustainable web together”.
It’s nearly six months since Google announced Privacy Sandbox, a movement to create a new open standard which would allow for targeted advertising without unnecessary invasion of privacy. Now, over the course of the next two years, the company plans to phase out support for third-party cookies in Chrome.
At the same time, Google will also take steps to limit some cross-site tracking which could be used by advertisers and others to build up detailed user profiles. The company also says that it is working to find ways to prevent circumvention of these privacy-enhancing measures.