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Google’s First Steps Toward a Cookie-Free Tomorrow

Andre Golsorkhi

With cookies severely restricted in the European Union and big browser companies like Mozilla deciding to prioritize privacy over data collection, it’s no surprise that there’s been a scramble to develop new technology that can track consumer behavior online.

Several different ideas have emerged, and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has even formed a group to investigate what comes after the cookies go.

Google, it seems, has so far presented the strongest cookie challenger. Much like earlier technology developed by Apple, the Google technology would rely on anonymous identifiers — looking at user behavior but not personal information — and it would be far easier to disable or restrict than current tracking technology.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans disapprove of search engines and websites collecting their data for the purpose of ad targeting.

It’s a big step toward addressing a situation that has had online retailers, especially, quite frightened. Not because they wanted to invade consumers’ privacy — that’s the job of the NSA’s PRISM program — but because cookies had become a crucial part of how these retailers could reach specific customers with specific messages, based on preferences gleaned from web history.

And whereas even a few months ago, the certain death of the cookie would have been great cause for concern for retail marketers, there seems to be a great sigh of relief circulating: Google’s got this.

The Targeting Imperative

According to Pew, nearly two-thirds of Americans disapprove of search engines and websites collecting their data for the purpose of ad targeting. There’s an inherent mistrust because they don’t like their behavior tracked.

But at the same time, a 2010 report indicated that these targeted ads are far more effective than ads that are not. The logical jump to make here is that it’s not the targeting — it’s the tracking that people have a problem with.