Google’s first notable venture into actively addressing data privacy is a very hands-off approach, making it clear in their press releases that they were giving users the option to control how and where their data goes. This is in stark contrast to Apple’s ITP approach which looks to block tracking by forcing all first party cookies to expire after 7 days. Additionally, they are blocking tracking based on methods using heuristic algorithms. In fact, Chrome’s blog accuses ITP of degrading simple web experiences and making the web unpredictable for developers.

Instead Chrome will look to provide users information surrounding ads and cookies. There are a number of features promised by Google to achieve this. Firstly, developers will be forced to identify which cookies are allowed to work across domains. Further to this, cookies which are actually tracking users will have to be explicitly defined. Secondly, cross site cookies will only be limited to secure HTTPS connections, to ensure any cross-site tracking is being performed safely. Chrome will be aggressively blocking methods of browser fingerprinting, which will stop browsers being identified. The rationale behind this is that browser fingerprinting cannot be controlled, and therefore users cannot block that information.

Google are keen to highlight the steps they have already taken to demonstrate transparency and control in regard to Ads. Example features of Google ads allow users to mute ads and to understand why a particular ad was shown to them. To expand on this, Google will be releasing a cross browser extension which will provide the following information:

  • names of companies involved in displaying the Ad (that Google know of)
  • the factors used to tailor an ad to a specific user
  • a list of all the ads shown to a user

Google will provide APIs to other Ad providers, giving them the opportunity to share the same information that Google do. In an ideal world, all the information from all Ads would then be available to users using the plugin. This would arm users to choose which ads they like and which they dislike.

How will these changes affect marketers? The total effect on marketing is completely in the user’s hands. If the user decides to not disable any cookies or ads then the effect will be nothing. If a user decides to block ads, then those ads will no longer be served to them. However, this effect is no different to users of ad-blockers, which have been available since the inception browser plugins and extensions. There is a chance of more people making use of the ad blocking feature as it will now be built into Chrome, and therefore arguably easier to use. First party cookies are not being affected, and there will be no functionality added to make the deletion of these cookies easier. Most marketing teams are now turning to using first party cookie-based methods of tracking users (such as Google’s global site tags).