Controversy Over Google’s Suggestion Against Blocking Cookies

Controversy Over Google’s Suggestion Against Blocking Cookies



Following Google’s announcement of Google’s Privacy Sandbox, a lot of E-Commerce businesses and websites have been on the edge. The Privacy Sandbox will endeavor to keep third party cookies blocked and ensure privacy for its users on the web. However, this initiative has stirred up a heavy uproar from the web community. Following the announcement of Google’s Privacy Sandbox, remarks were seemingly welcomed by Google on the new initiative. Privacy Sandbox would be geared towards addressing these

Three Major Debates

1. Ad selection and the introduction of Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC)This is a crucial part of advertising on the internet that allows for an ad server to intelligently select suitable ads for viewers appropriately through complex algorithms drawn from data. The Privacy Sandbox intends to change the viewing behavior of individuals to that of a similar group or cohort with related viewings. This is simply referred to as Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC).

2. Fraud prevention:The Privacy Sandbox promises to introduce Trust Token APIs which aims at a creating a safer and trustworthy experience for user websites using the PrivacyPass protocol.

3. Conversion managementThis would entail a new feature on the web platform that can potentially record, compute and send feedback of ad click conversions.

Far beyond the speculative stage and almost imminent, Google maintains the Sandbox Privacy initiative and backs the project despite the numerous calls for a remake for a more coherent initiative for user privacy.

Privacy and web tracking

Web tracking is simply a process whereby websites identify and obtain information about users. This is usually in the pattern of web browsing history.
So every time you use the Internet via a browser, a record of the websites you visit are identified, along with every other icon and the page you click. In order to track such information, websites save trace bits of data in devices or make use of hardware configuration or user accounts.

The benefits of web tracking from a website owner’s point of view, majorly provide site analytics and targeted advertising.
Without web tracking, a third-party e-commerce website (and in many cases the consenting first-party) will have to assume every user as a first-time visitor and would not be proficient to propose personalized content and preferences. However, once there is one third-party involved, that third-party has the means to gather and invite numerous other third-parties to the first-party platform. Personal information such as your age, birthday, income, medical history, dietary habits, most visited web sites and so on are gathered and used by these sites unknown to you to assist them gather new ways to get you to sign up for services, spend your money, and give up more of your information.

Cookies and fingerprint tracking

Cookies are trace bits of data placed in browser storage by the webserver. Every time a user visits a website for the very first time, a cookie file with a unique user identifier is stored on the user’s device.
You may notice successive visits to the website do not require a login because your details are already stored by the browser through a cookie.
Browser fingerprinting, on the other hand, is to a larger degree a more accurate way to track web users. Information collected is more detailed, such as the browser version, supported fonts, operating system, screen resolution, time zone, plugins, language and font preferences, hardware configurations and so on. This technique gives a highly comprehensive and accurate result of the user.

What is Google’s View on privacy and advertising

Google contends; a technique known as ’fingerprinting’ is employed when there is large scale blocking of third-party cookies.
Google’s Engineering Director on Chrome privacy and security; Justin Schuh asserts blocking cookies undermines the authority of the system for websites to utilize data through opaque means such as fingerprinting. Through this technique of fingerprinting, the user has no way of managing or controlling how his data is being used by these third party websites since this method cannot be ridden like the conventional way of clearing by browsing cookies.

Google’s Justin Schuh declared, ”Efforts by other browsers to block cookies resulted in unintended consequences due to the lack of standards”.
Schuh further explained, ”Third-party cookies are the most common tracking technologies on the Web. Even though Safari and Firefox have severely reduced advertisers’ access to cookies, browser fingerprinting remains reasonably rare.”
Browsers such as Safari and Tor have largely reduced fingerprinting by narrowing strides already used in fingerprinting techniques and Google could very much do the same.

Review of Google’s Sandbox Privacy initiative

Google’s views and intended policy can be somewhat misleading according to Jonathan Mayer; an Associate Professor of Computer Science and Public Affairs at Princeton University. Mayer criticized Google’s Sandbox proposal and argued:
Google have obviously not found a unique and suitable way to balance the privacy of individuals and advertising. Google claims cookie blocking subverts authority and undermines web policy which is a manipulative appeal at best to maneuver its notion.
Mayer and his colleague, Arvind Narayanan, deconstructed the Sandbox Privacy policy and accused google of Privacy gaslighting. As browsing platforms seek to find a bridge between third party advertising and user privacy, Google’s policy proves most inviting to tracking unlike companies such as Apple’s Safari and Firefox that provides default anti-tracking which was praised as “laudable privacy features”. Google’s Schuh went further by suggesting blocking cookies on third-party websites was counterproductive and would result in such sites using opaque means like fingerprinting.
Without a doubt, Google has made a large portion of its revenue from advertisements. Schuh contended when users block cookies, it significantly decreases the main funding of publishers. However, only four percent increase was found to be accrued when cookies we’re used as obtained by a university research paper. This is only $0.00008 for every advertisement. On the other hand, it was found Google generates about 52% less when third-party cookies are blocked.

The weighty scale of Privacy and business interests

According to the original tech specs, cookies were meant to be blocked by users– RFC 2109, Section 4.3.5.
Google has maintained its stance and further attempts to pivot the Sandbox Privacy Policy claiming, from the beginning, privacy would always be at a disadvantage when considering ”necessary advertising”. The web community have not opposed a privacy policy from Google, but seek a more suitable and coherent model that is user-oriented as opposed to precipitously enriching the billion-dollar company. Google has not made adequate strides in protecting user privacy and should endeavour to strategically devise a favourable initiative the Sandbox Privacy Policy fails to address.

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