Google promises not to develop new user-tracking tools after it kills cookies

Google develops plenty of software, but the company makes most of its money from ads that you see online in Google’s own apps and services, in Google Search, and on other sites. Google collects personal data to build up user profiles that its targets with personalized ads. Those ads are more likely to convince people to buy something, and advertisers pay Google more money for such ads.

Despite all that, Google has been increasing privacy protections in its products in recent years. Google doesn’t really have a choice, given the massive pressure from Apple, which refocused on privacy and security core years ago. And Google seems ready to do something that will put user privacy ahead of its bottom line. The company just promised that it’s not going to build user-tracking tools to replace the internet cookies that it’s about to kill.

Cookies are tiny pieces of information that websites use to implement certain functionalities and track users. Companies like Google, Facebook, and others can track users across websites with the help of cookies — and, actually, Mozilla just released a Firefox update that stops that behavior.

Firefox also blocks third-party cookies, and Apple’s Safari does the same thing. Google’s Chrome will follow suit. And Google addressed cookies in a blog post this week.

Google explains that the user-tracking ad business generated an “erosion of trust” — “72% of people feel that almost all of what they do online is being tracked by advertisers, technology firms, or other companies, and 81% say that the potential risks they face because of data collection outweigh the benefits, according to a study by Pew Research Center.”

Initially, Google makes it sound like it isn’t to blame for the problem, as it stresses the fact that the internet we have today would not be possible without ads. But Google quickly makes it clear that advertising needs to change. “If digital advertising doesn’t evolve to address the growing concerns people have about their privacy and how their identity is being used, we risk the future of the free and open web,” Google said.

Google then reminds us that Chrome will ditch cookies, dropping the bombshell that it won’t look to develop other trackers to replace them, either.

“We continue to get questions about whether Google will join others in the ad tech industry who plan to replace third-party cookies with alternative user-level identifiers,” Google wrote. “Today, we’re making explicit that once third-party cookies are phased out, we will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will we use them in our products.”

The company said that its “web products will be powered by privacy-preserving APIs which prevent individual tracking while still delivering results for advertisers and publishers.”

Google goes on to explain that people shouldn’t accept being tracked online for the benefits of relevant advertising and that advertisers do not need to track individual consumers to get “the performance benefits of digital advertising.” That’s certainly a surprising conclusion coming from Google.

Google will use various technologies, including “aggregation, anonymization, on-device processing, and other privacy-preserving technologies” to replace individual identifiers.

Chrome will make FLoC (or Federated Learning of Cohorts) available for public testing this month, and will use FLoC-based cohorts with advertisers in the second quarter of the year. FLoC is a technology that will hide individuals within large crowds of people with common interests.

Chrome 89 will come with the Privacy Sandbox feature that Google mentions in the blog, which should enable FLoC. Android Police has already discovered the feature in the beta version of Chrome 89 for Android.

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Twitter CFO: Apples App Tracking Transparency Changes Level the Playing Field

Twitter is not concerned about the upcoming ad tracking changes that Apple plans to implement in iOS 14.5, Twitter CFO Ned Segal said today at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media, and Telecom Conference.



Segal said that Twitter does not heavily rely on the device ID or IDFA, which is what Apple will be restricting through a new prompt that will require developers to get user permission before the IDFA can be used for ad tracking purposes.

We look at the unique signal that Twitter has with a growing audience, with better formats and more relevance and the ability to better leverage that signal, much of which isn’t tied to a device ID. We feel really good about our ability to leverage that combination.

Segal went on to explain that he expects Apple’s IDFA restrictions to “level the playing field.” Other companies have been better at leveraging the data made available to them, but now everyone will have the same challenges to face, giving Twitter an opportunity to better compete with giants like Facebook.

We’re in an industry where many were much better than Twitter historically at leveraging all of the data that was available to them, from the device ID to what people were doing on other websites. When we all have the same set of new challenges that we have to face, leveling the playing field will be a really interesting impact on the broader industry.

Twitter plans to wait rather than immediately ask its users if they want to opt into IDFA tracking through a popup. “We don’t want to be in a rush around IDFA,” said Segal, explaining that app developers only get one chance to ask for access to the device ID. “You want to ask in a really thoughtful way” and “take time to learn” before you “ask a question like that,” he said.

Apple’s App Tracking Transparency changes are baked into iOS 14 and are implemented now, but starting in iOS 14.5, Apple will enforce the rules. All app developers will need to ask permission before using the IDFA to track a user across websites and apps, and if a user declines, developers must respect that choice and not engage in other cross-app tracking methods.

Facebook has been fighting Apple’s planned privacy changes and claims that small businesses will be unfairly impacted, but Apple has not budged on plans to implement the IDFA prompt and Facebook and other developers will be forced to use it following the launch of iOS 14.5 in the spring.

Tag: Twitter

This article, "Twitter CFO: Apple's App Tracking Transparency Changes 'Level the Playing Field'" first appeared on MacRumors.com

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Apple’s new tool lets you transfer iCloud Photos to Google Photos; here’s how it works

Ahead of tech companies being forced by lawmakers to offer greater data portability options in the US and elsewhere, Apple has been proactive and started offering a new option on its Data & Privacy website. Follow along for a look at how to directly transfer iCloud Photos to Google Photos and other supported services that should launch in the future.

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The post Apple’s new tool lets you transfer iCloud Photos to Google Photos; here’s how it works appeared first on 9to5Mac.

Deals: Apples iPad 8th Gen returns to $299, plus $549 iPad Air 4 & up to $100 off iPad Pros

Always a popular favorite at Amazon, the company’s $299 iPad deal is back. But you’ll want to secure your place in line early as units are already on backorder.

Apple iPad deal for $299 at Amazon

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The sale price is available on the 32GB Wi-Fi model in Space Gray (MYL92LL/A), with units available to ship on March 28 April 1.

Read more…