Google to Stop Selling Ads Based on Website Usage, But Will Still Snoop on Users

Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Chrome, speaks at Google's annual developer conference, Google I/O, in San Francisco on 28 June 2012
KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/GettyImages

Google is planning to phase out the use of technology that tracks users as they move from website to website around the internet, in a move that it says is intended to better protect users’ privacy.

But a closer look at the fine print of Google’s plans shows that the tech giant still plans to track users’ activity at the device level.

Via the Wall Street Journal

Instead, Google says its ad-buying tools will use new technologies it has been developing with others in what it calls a “privacy sandbox” to target ads without collecting information about individuals from multiple websites. One such technology analyzes users’ browsing habits on their own devices, and allows advertisers to target aggregated groups of users with similar interests, or “cohorts,” rather than individual users. Google said in January that it plans to begin open testing of buying using that technology in the second quarter.

Google argues that tracking users at the device level is more secure than using third-party cookies to track users around the web, because in contrast to the current approach, user data would not leave a user’s device. Google outlined the concept in a blog post in January.

However, Google’s proposed technology would still get to monitor and analyze user activity. It is unclear if Google’s planned device-level method would be able to bypass commonly-used privacy defending tools like VPNs.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Google’s planned change also doesn’t apply to mobile apps.

Google says its announcement on Wednesday doesn’t cover its ad tools and unique identifiers for mobile apps, just for websites. But its plan is the latest sign that the tide might be turning on user tracking more broadly.

Nevertheless, Google is touting the move as an answer to user demands for privacy. In today’s blog post, Google director of project management David Temkin framed the move as a step forward for privacy.

“Keeping the internet open and accessible for everyone requires all of us to do more to protect privacy — and that means an end to not only third-party cookies, but also any technology used for tracking individual people as they browse the web,” said Temkin.

“We remain committed to preserving a vibrant and open ecosystem where people can access a broad range of ad-supported content with confidence that their privacy and choices are respected.”

Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election.

 

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