Google recently roiled the ad industry by declaring that the Chrome browser will soon join Apple's Safari and Mozilla's Firefox in nixing third-party cookies.
On Wednesday, Google added that it also will not build “alternate identifiers” to track Chrome users across the web.
But this latest announcement doesn't mean Google will stop serving ads to people based on their web-browsing activity. On the contrary, the company clearly plans to continue to serve ads to people based on the sites they visit.
Its Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) approach, which is still in development, relies on examining the sites users visit, in order to place them into audience segments (or, in Google's terminology, “cohorts”) and then serve ads to users based on those assigned segments.
The FLoC architecture, which relies on data stored in the Chrome browser, appears to be very similar to the model used more than a decade ago by behavioral advertising pioneers like the former Tacoda (sold to AOL in 2007).
In recent years, that older model gave way to more personalized forms of targeting.
But even the older, less hyper-targeted methods raised privacy concerns. As far back as 2007, consumer advocates urged the Federal Trade Commission to endorse “do not track” for online advertising.
The advocates specifically asked the FTC to back the idea that computers belong to their owners, not tech companies, and that “Internet businesses are not free to help themselves to the resources of a consumer’s computer.”
Obviously, online tracking technologies have become more sophisticated and more pervasive since 2007. But Google is fooling itself if it thinks storing data in people's browsers for ad-targeting purposes doesn't present any privacy issues.