Privacy activists for years have criticised tech companies including Google for using cookies to gather web browsing records across websites they don’t own, enabling them to develop profiles on users’ interests to serve personalised advertisements. Now, Google is pledging it will not use other technology to replace the cookie or build features inside Google Chrome to allow itself access to that data, though it continues to test ways for businesses to target ads to large groups of anonymous users with common interests.
“Keeping the internet open and accessible for everyone requires all of us to do more to protect privacy — and that means an end to not only third-party cookies but also any technology used for tracking individual people as they browse the web,” Google said in the blog post.
Earlier this year, Google unveiled the results of tests that showed an alternative to the longstanding practice of using user-tracking cookies. The company claimed that it could improve online privacy while still enabling advertisers to serve up relevant messages.
“This approach effectively hides individuals ‘in the crowd’ and uses on-device processing to keep a person’s Web history private on the browser,” Google product manager Chetna Bindra had explained in unveiling the system called Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC). “Results indicate that when it comes to generating interest-based audiences, FLoC can provide an effective replacement signal for third-party cookies.”