Google To Stop Selling Ads Based On Browsing History

Google plans to stop selling ads based on individual browsing activity across multiple websites.

The company said Wednesday that it plans to stop using tracking technologies that uniquely identify web users as they traverse from one website to another.

The decision could support the advertising industry’s move away from individual tracking, which some advertising executives have called “archaic.” The practice in recent months have come under fire from privacy advocates and regulators worldwide.

“We realize this means other providers may offer a level of user identity for ad tracking across the web that we will not — like PII graphs based on people’s email addresses,” wrote David Temkin, director and product management for ads privacy and trust at Google. “We don’t believe these solutions will meet rising consumer expectations for privacy, nor will they stand up to rapidly evolving regulatory restrictions, and therefore aren’t a sustainable long-term investment.”

Temkin said privacy-preserving APIs will power Google’s web products that aim to prevent individual tracking, but continue to deliver results for advertisers and publishers.

Once Google phases out third-party cookies, the company will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, and will not use them in its products.

Digital advertising must evolve. “People shouldn’t have to accept being tracked across the web in order to get the benefits of relevant advertising,” Temkin wrote. “And advertisers don't need to track individual consumers across the web to get the performance benefits of digital advertising.”

Google last year announced it would remove tracking technology. Now the company says it won’t build alternative tracking technologies, or use those being developed by other entities, to replace third-party cookies for its own ad-buying tools. Instead it will use the technology developed in its “privacy sandbox” to target ads without tracking consumers from one site to another.

One technology analyzes browsing habits on their own devices, allowing advertisers to target aggregated groups of users with similar interests, or “audience cohorts,” rather than individual users. Audience cohorts are people with similar browsing histories and interests who might be targeted collectively rather than individually. It almost seems like a step backward by stepping sideways to achieve Google’s goal. 

The idea, which Google nurtures in first-party relationships, is that grouping people into audiences protects their privacy. Google believe in the long run, the tech industry can use these FLoC-based cohort IDs in their ads to personalize algorithms.



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