Jessica Goodfellow
May 9, 2019

Google cracks down on cookie tracking

The changes clamp down on the “complex and opaque” digital advertising ecosystem.

Google cracks down on cookie tracking

Google is giving users greater oversight and control over how they are tracked across the internet, in a move that could have drastic implications for the current online advertising model.

At its annual I/O developer conference on Tuesday, the business announced a new set of controls to its Chrome search engine that requires developers to specify which cookies can track users.

Those cookies can then be easily pooled in Chrome’s cookie library, allowing users to block or clear cookies that use trackers, while leaving single-domain cookies that control user logins and settings unaffected.

Chrome will also “more aggressively” restrict fingerprinting, an underground user-tracking method that subverts cookie controls.

The technique is neither transparent nor under the user’s control, and results in tracking that “doesn’t respect user choice”, the company said.

Google said it will reduce the ways in which browsers can be passively fingerprinted, in order to detect and intervene against active fingerprinting efforts as they happen.

The changes are aimed at allowing users to “make informed choices about how their data is used” while also protecting user security, the company said.

In a blog post explaining the shift, Google engineering VP Prabhakar Raghavan said: “Our experience shows that people prefer ads that are personalized to their needs and interests—but only if those ads offer transparency, choice, and control.”

The move throws the current online advertising model, which relies heavily on being able to track users across the internet to understand the path to purchase, into question.

Google’s cookie crackdown follows similar efforts from Apple, which recently unveiled a new version of its anti-tracking tool Intelligent Tracking Prevention, reducing a first-party cookie's lifespan to track a user's browsing history.

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