Much of the web, including this website, is primarily funded via advertising. And in recent years advertisers have chosen largely to focus on targeted advertising, which tracks user behavior as folks move from website to website to choose ads that are most likely to appeal to specific individuals.

Plenty of folks don’t like being tracked to that degree, so the use of ad-blockers, tracker-blockers, and privacy-focused web browsers and search engines are on the rise.

Browser makers have taken notice. Firefox has been getting progressively tougher on third-party cookies that could track your browsing behavior. And Google has been planning for a while to phase out support for third-party cookies on websites you visit in its Chrome browser for a while – even though Google makes most of its money from advertising.

If you worried that Google would just find other ways to track you, the company is now promising that it won’t… at least not on an individual level. Targeted advertising isn’t going away. But rather than targeting ads at the singular you, Google wants to move toward targeting ads at y’all… an aggregated, anonymized group of people with similar interests.

We’ll see if that’s enough to keep users from installing ad blockers en masse or switching to alternate services like the privacy-focused Brave web browser, which also just announced plans to launch its own privacy-focused search engine.

Google Privacy Sandbox settings from Chrome 89 Beta (via Android Police)

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  1. I tried using Duck Duck Go for a while. I liked the privacy aspect, but it took a long time to find relevant search results. Sometimes I do searches on Bing or Yahoo, but relevant search results aren’t easy to find there either. Google just works better and finds my stuff faster. But Google is blocked in China. When I’m in China I have to use Bing to find relevant search results in English. A note to advertisers: When it’s time for me to buy something online, Amazon is where I go first. Stop wasting my time with ads everywhere else and just give me a good price with free shipping on Amazon.

  2. Google says, “we will not build”. Doesn’t stop them from using the methods they’ve already got.
    It’s like, every expectation google is trying to set up, they’ve already subverted. They don’t need an email PLL graph (whatever that is), they have your email contents. They don’t need cookies, they have their DNS (if you use Chrome). If you don’t, they have cross site javascript and fingerprinting (recaptcha works without cookies). They certainly don’t want other people to be tracking you, that makes your data less available to their competitors.
    And if google really wants a free and open web, well quite frankly, everything they do makes for the opposite of that.

    1. I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention Google Analytics and Google Safebrowsing.
      Furthermore, there’s another important implication of this action that I didn’t think about at the time.
      A lot of people only realize they were being tracked at all when they got ads for things they mentioned in in-person conversations or went near but didn’t actually want to buy (gauging a person’s interest in things in real time is hard).
      So by de-personalizing ads, it will be harder for people to realize they are being tracked and harder to persuade people that they shouldn’t be tracked.

      1. The other day, I got a popup ad that said “do this to empty your bowels every morning.” What the heck? Are the tracking me in the bathroom now too?