How Google's Latest Privacy Moves Will Affect Publishers

Google yesterday said it will stop using tracking technologies to identify web users as they visit different websites, a move that expands on its plan to end support for third-party cookies. Considering that publishers, advertisers and ad-tech developers have been bracing for these privacy measures, Google's latest announcement isn't as dire as it sounds.

Instead of developing an alternative tracking technology to third-party cookies, Google will continue to work with other companies on its "privacy sandbox" initiative, according to a blog post. The idea is to create technologies for ad targeting without gathering user-level information.

"Advances in aggregation, anonymization, on-device processing and other privacy-preserving technologies offer a clear path to replacing individual identifiers," David Temkin, the product manager who oversees ads privacy at Google, said in the blog.
He touted the company's work on an ad-target technology that groups users into "cohorts" of similar interests, based on their browsing habits. The company in January said its Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) system is nearly efficient as cookie-based advertising, though ad-tech companies have questioned the methodology of its analysis.
Without referring to alternative user identifies by name, Temkin said Google won't offer an identifier based an e-mail addresses. The statement was an indirect reference to the Unified ID 2.0 identity solution that ad-tech company The Trade Desk has spearheaded.
Temken said Google didn’t believe these solutions based on email addresses would satisfy consumer demands for privacy or withstand regulatory scrutiny. Publishers also have expressed concern about UID 2.0, but for different reasons, such as protecting their first-party data about web visitors.
However, there are signs that those concerns are being addressed. The Washington Post in December became the first publisher to adopt UID 2.0 on its website, citing the ability to control its first-party data.
Amid consumer concerns about privacy, first-party data have been heralded by publishers as a valuable resource in their monetization efforts. In that respect, Google's Temkin agrees that first-party data are a building block of a more sustainable internet. He said the company is committed to cultivating those direct relationships between publishers and consumers.
"We'll deepen our support for solutions that build on these direct relationships between consumers and the brands and publishers they engage with," he said.
Publishers have reason to be skeptical of Google, considering its dominance in digital advertising and the software that buyers and sellers of digital media use. The company is a target of several antitrust investigations that many publishers support. However, the third-party cookie isn't coming back amid consumer concerns about privacy, compelling publishers to continue to innovate on a solution to maximize their value to advertisers.



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