As of 2022, Chrome will no longer allow third-party cookies that collect data on what you are doing on the web, and Google will not be selling targeted Google ads based on your online activity.
Don’t freak out. This is a huge change for digital advertising and a big step towards privacy on the web – but as we know from our time in the SEO trenches, Google changes the way it does things seemingly monthly. The devs over at Alphabet are not just trying to bolster their advertising profit; they’re trying to make something that could be problematic in the future better and more secure.
Respecting user privacy is not just a trend, nor is Google the only entity focusing on protecting user data. This change comes at a time where internet privacy legislation is passing internationally (in the form of GDPR and CCPA in the United States), and the conversation surrounding data protection is louder than ever. It only makes sense that the largest search engine on the web would want to get out ahead of such a huge concern.
How Google Ads Will Work
Google still wants to sell ads. The difference is they’re not selling you personally. The new approach will group users into “cohorts“, which act as interest bucket categories.
Instead of showing Jim Smith – an active fisherman from Boca Raton, Florida – Google ads will sell ads for the fisherman cohort to which Jim belongs. It’s targeted advertising without getting too personal.
Google’s Privacy Sandbox
It all started in August 2019, when Google announced “Privacy Sandbox” – an alternative to the cookie-based tracking approach that digital advertisers have relied on for years. This method of tracking replaces cookies with 5 application programming interfaces (APIs) which will tell advertisers things like if a user purchased a product, visited a page, or engaged with an ad based on the advertiser’s efforts.
The biggest thing to note here is that the data collected by these APIs is tied to a browser, not a user – meaning while Google is collecting your data, it is not linked directly to you as an individual. Nowhere will your name, email, or any sensitive personal information be tracked and stored by Google.
But that’s not all! Google is developing this approach in hopes of it being adopted universally across browsers. The internet is still the wild west, but a universal do-away with cookies and the adoption of these APIs would mean there’s a new sheriff in town.
Google loves Google. We know this, and we brown nose as much as we can by using Google Search Console, Google My Business, and the slew of other tools developed by the largest search engine to help us use their engine as effectively as we can for ourselves and our clients.
Because Google loves Google, the tech giant will allow itself some loopholes under this new approach. Your activity as a user will still be tracked on the properties Google owns and ads will still be sold using this data on these properties, including search (which has become synonymous with the Google name over the years).
Is this a good thing?
It depends where you’re sitting.
For marketers, there will likely be some growing pains. Google claims that their initiative will not negatively impact advertiser’s efforts, but since we’re a ways away from any solid implementation, that’s yet to be seen.
For consumers, it’s clear that Google is making a good PR move: over 80% of consumers think the consequences of tracking outweigh any benefit they’d get from targeted Google ads. Data privacy is the future of the web, and Google knows this as much as anybody.
You’d never guess my opinion based on how much I write about privacy concerns. But honestly, it’s all out there: your name to your email to your social security number. If an advertiser wants to watch me eat breakfast, just let me know so I can comb my hair first.