Google has announced it has no intention to build or use “alternate identifiers” as a replacement to cookies for tracking individuals.
Google stunned the industry when it announced it would remove support for third-party cookies in Chrome, which currently has roughly 70% of the web browser market. While useful for providing site functionality, cookies are often used to track individuals across websites and build a startlingly complete picture of a person’s interests and browsing habits.
Some had thought Google might develop alternative identifier solutions to replace cookies, but the company has firmly shot that idea down. David Temkin, Director of Product Management, Ads Privacy and Trust, outlined the company’s plans in a blog post:
That’s why last year Chrome announced its intent to remove support for third-party cookies, and why we’ve been working with the broader industry on the Privacy Sandbox to build innovations that protect anonymity while still delivering results for advertisers and publishers. Even so, we continue to get questions about whether Google will join others in the ad tech industry who plan to replace third-party cookies with alternative user-level identifiers. Today, we’re making explicit that once third-party cookies are phased out, we will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will we use them in our products.
Temkin reiterated the company’s commitment to its Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) API. FLoC is designed to hide an individual in the crowd, essentially providing privacy through obscurity. Some are not convinced, however, with the EFF labeling FLoC “a terrible idea.”
Still, given Google’s history of ignoring and abusing individuals’ privacy, a history that has resulted in lawsuits, its refreshing to see the company take at least some stand 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. 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. We look forward to working with others in the industry on the path forward.