Google has decided to clarify its approach to developing new technologies to replace third-party tracking cookies, an effort designed to inject a greater level of privacy in the digital advertising chain.
At a press conference attended by Tech Radar ProGoogle’s President for EMEA, Matt Brittin, answered questions about the trajectory of the Privacy Sandbox project and the criticisms leveled by privacy advocates.
“Users want a private and secure web; we can see it in our search results. But if you want it all to work, you need advertising that works, because a subscription model for the web isn’t for everyone,” he said.
“It’s really about creating a website that works for everyone. What we’re trying to do is make sure you can have high-performance, privacy-respecting advertising that works for both user and advertiser – and we’re optimistic about that. »
FLoC, Topics and Android
Google first launched the Privacy Sandbox initiative in 2019, in recognition that the system underpinning its lucrative advertising business (powered by third-party cookies that track people across the web) creates opportunities for to privacy.
“Like any technology, cookies are neither good nor bad. It’s just the way they’re used,” Brittin said. “The reason we have to move away from them is that they are increasingly being used in ways that are infuriating to consumers.”
The goal is to develop a set of new systems and technologies that perform the same role as cookies, allowing advertisers to target internet users who are most likely to interact with their products, but without compromising user privacy to the same extent. .
So far, achieving this goal has proven to be as difficult as it sounds. The first proposal, FLOChas been widely criticized by privacy advocates, who rejected the system like a sleight of hand.
In January, Google announced that it would replace FLoC with a similar system called Topics, which serves ads based on broad interest categories. The system relies on three weeks of browsing data, stored locally on the device, to place people into a variety of different buckets, which in turn determine the types of ads the person will receive. Internet users can withdraw from a particular “subject” at any time via their Web browser.
Despite continuous criticism, Matters appears to be the system that Google will continue to pursue as it moves forward with plans to leave third-party cookies behind. Currently, Topics is being tested alongside a number of separate APIs being developed as part of the Privacy Sandbox initiative.
Google too recently announced it will extend Privacy Sandbox to Android, phasing out Advertising ID (a tracking system analogous to third-party cookies) in favor of alternatives that limit user data sharing with third parties and do not rely on cross-app tracking .
The deadline for the eradication of cookies was recently pushed back in the second half of 2024, to give industry players more time to prepare, and a similar date has been set for the discontinuation of the advertising ID on Android.
The free and open web
Google’s typical response to criticism of its efforts has been that targeted advertising is crucial to keeping the web free and open. Without the ability to target ads effectively, content and services currently available for free would have to pay to remain economically viable for the provider, the argument goes.
In response to questions from Tech Radar Pro On criticism from privacy advocates, some of whom are calling on regulators to ban targeted advertising outright, Brittin pursued a similar line of reasoning, citing BFI numbers (opens in a new tab) who suggest that such a ban would wipe out up to $39 billion from the publishing market.
“If you want an affordable web, advertisers have to reach users. If you don’t want ads, it’s the world of ad blockers and companies that develop technology that allows people to block everything, but it’s a hammer that destroys the funding model for original content,” said he declared.
“An objection to relevant advertising is different from an objection to personal data being used in a way that people have not consented to – and this is where we would defend our approach very vigorously. We try to provide consumers with the protection they want, along with helpful and relevant advertising.”
Brittin, who worked in publishing before joining Google, admitted that new monetization models could emerge that would allow publishers to fund their content without relying on targeted advertising. For example, in a system based on micropayments, users would pay small sums for each piece of content they access, instead of expensive subscriptions that serve to exclude people from the information market. But there are also problems with that premise, he noted.
“Micropayments is something that hasn’t really taken off on the web. The challenge for publishers is that they are currently monetizing a global audience, but if [stories are each earning a few cents per view], what is the incentive for journalists to work under the aegis of a publication? You will end up with more atomization of news,” Brittin said.
When asked if Google would consider switching from targeted advertising to contextual advertising in the name of privacy, should a robust new monetization model emerge, Brittin declined to be drawn.
“Let’s see if we get that technology,” he said. Tech Radar Pro. “[In a few years’ time]I hope we envision an open and affordable web enjoyed by nearly everyone on the planet, and see businesses able to grow more and more through privacy-friendly advertising.