Google to Stop Selling Ads Based on Tracked Browsing History, Wants a ‘Privacy-First’ Web

Google will stop selling ads based on your browsing across websites, the company said Wednesday.

Google made clear that after it finished phasing out third-party cookies over the next year or so, it won’t introduce other forms of identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web.

Google acknowledged that the proliferation of advertising-based tracking on the web has eroded the trust of its users. And so the company, which earns over 80 percent of its revenues from advertising, now says it will improve privacy and reduce online tracking while protecting its digital advertising business.

“As our industry has strived to deliver relevant ads to consumers across the web, it has created a proliferation of individual user data across thousands of companies, typically gathered through third-party cookies,” Google’s David Temkin writes. “72 percent of people feel that almost all of what they do online is being tracked by advertisers, technology firms[,] or other companies, and 81 percent say that the potential risks they face because of data collection outweigh the benefits, according to a study by Pew Research Center.”

Last year, Google updated Chrome so that it no longer supports third-party cookies, and the firm has been working with the industry to create a Privacy Sandbox that will “protect anonymity while still delivering results for advertisers and publishers.”

“We continue to get questions about whether Google will join others in the ad tech industry who plan to replace third-party cookies with alternative user-level identifiers,” Temkin continues. “Today, we’re making explicit that once third-party cookies are phased out, we will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will we use them in our products.”

It’s all part of the search giant’s push toward a “privacy sandbox,” which is designed to let publishers target ads based on your interests without infringing on your privacy. Those 2019 proposals followed Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, which raised concerns about how people’s data is used online.

“If digital advertising doesn’t evolve to address the growing concerns people have about their privacy and how their personal identity is being used, we risk the future of the free and open web,” Temkin concludes.