While web browsers like Mozilla’s Firefox and Apple’s Safari have featured tracking prevention for some time, in recent years we’ve seen the emergence of newer privacy-centric browsers like DuckDuckGo and Brave. Leading browsers like Google’s Chrome and Microsoft’s Edge do offer privacy options, but they aren’t the focus as they are with a product like Brave. For Chrome users, privacy concerns could be further amplified by Google’s recent decision to delay phasing out cookies in its browser until 2024. The company had previously promised to do this by 2023 (and has been discussing it since 2019) but now says it needs more time to evaluate and test its Privacy Sandbox technologies.
In the world of advertising, marketers are fond of cookies because they enable more personalized ads to appear in a browser and can keep track of a user’s web history for a long time. Google’s new Privacy Sandbox tech, on the other hand, omits cookies and relies on an in-browser algorithm to serve ads. As described by Google, the tech offers a new approach “to ensure that ads continue to be relevant for users, but user data shared with websites and advertisers would be minimized by anonymously aggregating user information, and keeping much more user information on-device only.”
Google noted that it’s aiming “to create a set of standards that is more consistent with users’ expectations of privacy,” but it’s not entirely clear what those standards will become. Critics have also pointed to Privacy Sandbox as a technology that could actually “harm privacy and possibly give Google an unfair advantage that harms competition,” as noted by The Verge. In fact, in response to Privacy Sandbox, 15 state AGs filed an antitrust suit against Google last year.
Regardless of what browser consumers use, there’s clear concern among many about what information is tracked and shared, especially as more and more daily activities have gone digital, and companies are looking to launch into the metaverse. According to Interpret’s New Media Measure®, over one-third of US consumers are not comfortable with websites or mobile apps sharing any of their data with advertisers and closer to half the population states being concerned about the privacy of their online data in general.
A delay to cookies being phased out will likely benefit Google’s massive ad business – and its partners who were challenged to meet the previous phase-out deadline – but some in the industry also recognize that much of the internet on mobile apps and connected TV is already cookieless. For advertisers, meeting consumer expectations around privacy will be an increasingly important component of their ad delivery strategies.