Google moves away from diet of ‘cookies’ to track users

Published February 8, 2021
Google is weaning itself off user-tracking “cookies” which allow the web giant to deliver personalised ads but which also have raised the hackles of privacy defenders. — AFP/File
Google is weaning itself off user-tracking “cookies” which allow the web giant to deliver personalised ads but which also have raised the hackles of privacy defenders. — AFP/File

SAN FRANCISCO: Google is weaning itself off user-tracking “cookies” which allow the web giant to deliver personalised ads but which also have raised the hackles of privacy defenders.

Last month, Google unveiled the results of tests showing an alternative to the longstanding tracking practice, claiming it could improve online privacy while still enabling advertisers to serve up relevant messages.

“This approach effectively hides individuals ‘in the crowd’ and uses on-device processing to keep a person’s web history private on the browser,” Google product manager Chetna Bindra explained in unveiling the system called Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC).

“Results indicate that when it comes to generating interest-based audiences, FLoC can provide an effective replacement signal for third-party cookies.” Google plans to begin testing the FLoC approach with advertisers later this year with its Chrome browser.

“Advertising is essential to keeping the web open for everyone, but the web ecosystem is at risk if privacy practices do not keep up with changing expectations,” Bindra added.

Google has plenty of incentive for the change. The US internet giant has been hammered by critics over user privacy, and is keenly aware of trends for legislation protecting people’s data rights.

Growing fear of cookie-tracking has prompted support for internet rights legislation such as GDPR in Europe and has the internet giant devising a way to effectively target ads without knowing too much about any individual person.

Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2021

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