Google to Launch New Privacy Tools for Limiting Cookies

Google is set to launch new tools to limit the use of tracking cookies, a move that could strengthen the search giant’s advertising dominance and deal a blow to other digital-marketing companies, people familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal.

After years of internal debate, Google could as soon as this week roll out a dashboard-like function in its Chrome browser that will give internet users more information about what cookies are tracking them and offer options to fend them off, the people said.

This is a more incremental approach than those taken by less popular browsers, such as Apple Inc.’s Safari and Mozilla Corp.’s Firefox, which introduced updates to restrict by default the majority of tracking cookies in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

Google’s move, which could be unveiled at its developer conference in Mountain View, California starting Tuesday, is expected to be touted as part of the company’s commitment to privacy – a complicated sell, given the large amount of data it continues to store on users – while it presses its sizable advantage over online-advertising rivals, the Journal noted.

The unit of Alphabet is the world’s largest digital ad seller, and the coming changes aren’t expected to significantly curtail Google’s ability to collect data.

A cookie is a small text file stored in an internet browser that lets companies silently follow users around the internet, gathering information such as which sites they have visited and what ads they have viewed or clicked. Initially developed in 1994 to help e-commerce sites remember when a user had placed an item in a shopping cart, cookies have since become ubiquitous across the web – and reviled by privacy advocates and many users.

Yet cookies also boost competition in the advertising landscape by allowing hundreds of digital firms to collect their own user data and sell higher-priced ads based on it. Any restriction on them is a boon to the biggest tech companies, including Google, which can target ads based on the large amount of other information they collect on users through their many products, CNBC adds.

Google, like its rivals in the browser business, isn’t planning to end the use of cookies that websites use to make their own users’ experience smoother, such as those that store login information so users don’t have to enter it every time. Instead, it is mostly targeting cookies installed by profit-seeking third parties, separate from the owner of the website a user is actively visiting.

Google has been working on the cookies plan for its Chrome browser – which commands almost two-thirds of the desktop-browser market share – for at least six years, in stops and starts. Work accelerated in the past year, after the personal data of tens of millions of Facebook users were improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica, a data firm that worked on President Trump’s 2016 campaign.

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