Most internet users understand the free content they consume is supported by data-driven advertising. Most people would prefer not to pay for content, but are also increasingly concerned about online privacy.
Google is seeking to navigate a middle path that balances privacy and user control over data and personalized advertising, which the internet has become increasingly dependent on. Building on announcements earlier this year at Google I/O related to Chrome and third-party cookie blocking, the company is initiating a standards discussion with the broader industry about how to support both user privacy and personalized, data-driven advertising.
The core principles. The guiding principles of the initiative are “transparency, choice and control.” Google’s Chetna Bindra, senior product manager, user trust and privacy, believes that this effort will potentially take several years to come to fruition. She also believes that the solution must be holistic and involve broad industry agreement about standards or it won’t work.
This ambitious effort to start an industrywide discussion is partly a reaction to the rise of ad blocking and partly to Apple’s implementation of “Intelligent Tracking Prevention,” designed to prevent third-party ad tracking across the internet on the Safari browser. Apple’s business model doesn’t rely on advertising and the company has sought to make user privacy a differentiated feature of its products.
Chrome is the world’s most used browser but Safari dominates on the iPhone and is not far behind in the U.S. market. But unlike Apple, Google sits at the center of a massive advertising ecosystem.
Blocking cookies isn’t the answer. In one of two blog posts this morning on the new standards initiative, Google cites internal data that argues when cookies go away so does revenue for publishers: “When advertising is made less relevant by removing cookies, funding for publishers falls by 52% on average.” The company says the revenue hit is even larger for news publishers (62%) in the absence of cookies and personalized ads.
Google argues that simply blocking cookies won’t work to deliver true user control because, according to Bindra’s blog post, “broad cookie restrictions have led some industry participants to use workarounds like fingerprinting, an opaque tracking technique that bypasses user choice and doesn’t allow reasonable transparency or control. Adoption of such workarounds represents a step back for user privacy, not a step forward.”
Illustrations of how user controls over data-driven ads might work