Google Chrome is making it easier for its users to block cookies and harder for ad tech companies to do fingerprinting.
But Google’s dominant position in online advertising means even small changes will unleash a cat-and-mouse game with ad tech companies, who may choose to sidestep the new restrictions. There’s also the concern that consumers may opt out en masse, just as many installed ad blockers or chose to “limit ad tracking” on their iPhones. And it’s yet another wake-up call for an industry facing US regulation following The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
AdExchanger asked industry vets to speculate on how Google’s privacy features will affect them, and why Google built its new privacy features in the way it did.
Here are the different questions looming as Google tightens its privacy in coming months.
Question 1: Why did Google make such a small change compared to Safari ITP?
Google always needs to protect its core advertising business, which is the most simple reason Chrome only made basic improvements to its ad business. But that argument glosses over a lot of complexity.
A more aggressive approach on privacy would potentially allow Google to further solidify its own advertising advantage – but open up the company to anti-trust concerns. GDPR, for example, is already pushing marketers to move more fully onto the Google stack, because Google has been able to preserve identity even in a consent-based environment.
And with the California Consumer Privacy Act just seven months away, it’s likely Google had to do something fast – and its Chrome announcement was the most it could cobble together in time for Google I/O.
“Google’s announcement, similar to what Facebook did, gives them the narrative angle to say they’re making a pivot to privacy without making it seem like they were derelict in protecting privacy before,” said Ghostery President Jeremy Tillman, whose company operates a browser extension that tracks or limits third-party cookies.
However, an alternate theory is that Chrome’s privacy improvements – much smaller compared to Safari and Firefox – are only the first step in a larger plan. Safari ITP, for example, is already multiple versions in after just two years in the market. Because a massive company like Google can’t make significant changes quickly, measured steps could ease the transition for its many partners.
“This is the first step,” said Nishant Desai, director of tech partnerships at Xaxis. “They are moving slowly because of how large they are, and because of how much their business depends on advertising.”