Google I/O 2019: Here’s the latest from Google

Google announced this month that it is tweaking its Chrome browser to better identify different types of cookies. Moving forward, it will help users differentiate between the “friendly” cookies that save their website logins and those that ad-tech companies employ for tracking and targeting.

Google announced these changes at the Google I/O event and in their blog on improving privacy and security on the web.

The change promises to enhance privacy for Chrome’s hundreds of millions of users (at least when it comes to identifying third-party cookies – Google will still be able to track user behavior on Chrome, of course). So what’s behind this change to the Chrome browser, and what might it mean for the digital advertising ecosystem?

Why cookies are so commonplace across the web

Cookies were originally designed to make the web easier to use. When your login information is prepopulated on your favorite websites, it’s cookies that make that happen.

As internet businesses proliferated, cookies came to be used for tracking people across websites. By placing cookies in users’ web browsers, tracking companies follow consumers around the web, gain insights into their behavior and help brands run targeted ad campaigns.

Another technology for tracking internet users, device fingerprinting, also has innocuous origins. Fingerprinting has been deployed to detect fraud, prevent software piracy and protect people’s digital identities.

Google’s move: a response to growing privacy concerns

There has been a clear need for increased privacy, and this change to the Chrome browser is one of a series of steps in that direction. We have seen concrete moves from the EU around privacy, and companies have had to adapt. From a consumer perspective, these changes offer better transparency into tracking, which is very welcome.

Advertisers will have to get creative in Chrome

Advertisers, who rely heavily on cookies for retargeting, will need to become more context-aware and find different approaches for reaching and engaging internet users.

But different approaches are emerging for advertisers to learn about consumer habits. Advertisers may need to employ a multifarious strategy to be able to target web users – one that includes some combination of

  • Better first-party data gathering
  • Device fingerprinting
  • More context-driven marketing and
  • Emerging blockchain solutions.

Currently, fingerprinting is the most established alternative to cookies for identifying individual internet users. Yet Google said in announcing these changes to Chrome that it also plans to restrict fingerprinting in the browser. Thus far, little detail has been provided on this front – but if Google decides to be strict about fingerprinting, it could have a chilling effect on the practice due to the Chrome browser’s dominance. Chrome currently owns about two-thirds of the browser market.

What marketers can expect from other browsers

Google is actually a little late to the privacy party. Apple has already blocked or set time limits on certain kinds of cookies in its iOS and macOS Safari browser. Mozilla Firefox, meanwhile, blocks many ad trackers and is moving to limit fingerprinting. Broadly, this Chrome browser news is good for consumers. But it does raise questions about what advertisers will have to do to keep up. The future may in fact be private, as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has said – so stay tuned.

Do you think Google has been successful at alleviating some of the privacy concerns of its users through these changes? Do you see this as an opportunity for digital marketers to get creative in their ad targeting? Tell us here.

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