Google promises to stop selling your browsing history to advertisers

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 2,866   +746
Staff member
In brief: Google explicitly says that when it phases out tracking cookies in two years, it will not be building an alternative tracking system. It insists that going forward it is focusing on more privacy-friendly ways for advertisers to serve relevant ads to users. FLoC-based advertising and user controls are the first steps in providing a more private browsing experience.

Google announced on Wednesday that it would stop selling targeted ads based on your browsing history. The search giant has relied on data mainly gathered through third-party cookies to provide users with ads relevant to their tastes and interests. However, this has led to an "erosion of trust" that the company feels needs to be addressed.

"In fact, 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," said Google's Director of Product Management David Temkin, citing a Pew Research Center study. "If digital advertising doesn't evolve to address the growing concerns people have about their privacy and how their personal identity is being used, we risk the future of the free and open web. "

In January, Google revealed a plan to phase out tracking cookies over the next two years. Temkin stressed that once third-party cookies are obsolete, they will not build "alternate identifiers." The company realizes that initially, competitors will provide traditional tracking methods. However, Google believes these will not last long as individual concerns grow and the privacy regulations worldwide continue to tighten.

Google does not plan to sit back and watch this happen. Future web products will use "privacy-preserving APIs." Consumers and advertisers can both benefit from newer privacy-focused technologies.

"Advances in aggregation, anonymization, on-device processing, and other privacy-preserving technologies offer a clear path to replacing individual identifiers," Temkin said.

Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) is one technology that Google has been testing to use in place of tracking cookies. In a nutshell, FLoC places users into large groups with similar interests, effectively hiding individuals in the crowd. So far, tests have shown a 95-percent conversion rate compared to third-party cookies. Google published a white paper on GitHub if you are interested.

Public FLoC testing will begin later this month with the next release of the Chrome browser. Google Ads integration will be coming sometime in the second quarter. In April, Chrome will introduce its "first iteration" of user controls with more to come pending end-user and industry feedback.

Image credit: Stefano Garau

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Shadowboxer

Posts: 1,427   +1,033
I don’t care what data is harvested really, well, within reason.

I just don’t want Google/Facebook/Twitter to profit from it.
 

NeoMorpheus

Posts: 362   +651
For the ones that use Google services and offerings, like gmail and Docs, this is good news.

And to be honest, as hard as I have tried, I couldnt find anywhere any confirmation that Google sells your private data, like name, address, number, etc.

Yet, my beloved DMV, ISP, cell phone provider and others gladly do this (all personal info).
 

summermick

Posts: 72   +100
One of my friends uses Chrome for one thing and one thing only adult films; I am curious who actually wants his browsing history. Hmm, I think the Incognito mode probably keeps users' browsing history on Google's server instead.
 
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OortCloud

Posts: 570   +420
For the ones that use Google services and offerings, like gmail and Docs, this is good news.

And to be honest, as hard as I have tried, I couldnt find anywhere any confirmation that Google sells your private data, like name, address, number, etc.

Yet, my beloved DMV, ISP, cell phone provider and others gladly do this (all personal info).
As I understand it, Google don't directly sell your data, but instead use all the data they gather on you to build demographic models. Marketing organisations then pay large amounts of money to use Google API's that allow their ads to be pushed to people who meet certain conditions, using services like AdWords.
So while they don't give away email addresses etc directly, Google ensure ads get pushed in front of the right sets of people. The big issue here is that in order to do this, Google keep massive archives of information on everything they can glean about you from your Chrome and Google browser activity, Android usage, Alexa usage etc etc.
I just wish they (and all the other big tech companies) would offer paid versions of their products and services that don't contain this tracking. I guess it shows just how much money they make from this that the option to pay for Android, Google etc is not offered.
 

NeoMorpheus

Posts: 362   +651
I just wish they (and all the other big tech companies) would offer paid versions of their products and services that don't contain this tracking.
Funny enough, you can pay for Windows 10 and OneDrive and MS is still collecting that much data.

But I agree with you, it would be nice to have that privacy back.
 

duckofdeath

Posts: 252   +350
For the ones that use Google services and offerings, like gmail and Docs, this is good news.

And to be honest, as hard as I have tried, I couldnt find anywhere any confirmation that Google sells your private data, like name, address, number, etc.

Yet, my beloved DMV, ISP, cell phone provider and others gladly do this (all personal info).
This isn't about your content on Google Drive, it's only about cookies. Your documents will still be dissected and analysed.
 

ikesmasher

Posts: 3,087   +1,478
As much as I utterly despise third party cookies this is extraordinarily anti-competitive. They have plenty of data and resources to personalize ads without third party cookies. Every other ad delivery service does not. Whos to say they dont just drive the competition out of business and then pick this back up? or use even more intrusive methods? Who needs third party cookies when the whole browser could record your habits without them?

The concept of personalizing ads using farmed data instead of user specification needs to go entirely, but its far too late for that.

Why should anyone trust google to drive the internet growth or direction?

This is trying to monopolize a market (that of monetizing your personal information and habits) under the guise of protecting privacy. Its a brilliant business-chess move, but we should not praise it.
 

orbital

Posts: 27   +29
I stopped using Google and its ecosystem many years ago. Just a few steps so you can do so yourself:

1. Search engine - Searx. There are multiple instances like www.searx.xyz, searx.rocks, etc. Searx is the most privacy-friendly search engine that simply indexes results from dozens of other search engines, however does not send your data anywhere, uses POST and even if you go back to the results after clicking somewhere you'll get a message the "webpage has expired". I do not mention startpage.com or duckduckgo.com as they are one step better than Google, however are neither secure, nor private. A Google with a nice decoration thing.

2. Create a new Gmail e-mail on each new Android device that requires it. Never transfer existing Gmail addresses, especially with private data, to smart devices like Android TV smart TV, web cameras, smart lights/IoT devices, or newly bought smartphones. Alphabet creates a common database of all your life including home and/or work addresses, precise location, wi-fi networks, timetables and habits, etc. Or simply - don't use Gmail. Period.


3. Don't use Google Chrome. Firefox or Opera are times better alternatives. I personally have disabled most Google services on my Android smartphones and have manually edited each and every permission of all smartphone apps via ADB and AppOps likes. A simple system app like Google Play or any of the Google Services Framework ones have like 50+ different permissions each, out of which it needs only 6 or 7 to operate. The rest are designed for pure spying on you, nothing else. So are the system Messaging and Phone apps by Google. If you don't want to go through changing permissions, at least use a VPN (firewall) and block those apps from accessing the internet.

4. Go into your "Accounts" Android smartphone settings and disable any personalisation or telemetry option linked to your Google e-mail. Disable any back-ups to Google Drive, as well as Google Drive itself. Do your own back-ups instead every now and then to your local phone/SD card memory that not only takes very little space, but belongs only to you. Disable "Find My Phone" function - it can turn on your Location setting at any time and can follow/spy on you as you move at all times. This function is On by default. Mind it. The last thing of this default setting is about you and your phone, it's about geofencing and having your exact location at all times.

5. If using Firefox, extensions like Chameleon, uMatrix, uBlock Origin, CanvasBlocker, Cookie AutoDelete, Privacy Badger, Decentraleyes, Smart HTTPS, and Location Guard are a MUST. In CanvasBlocker you can easily change most of the identifying APIs and fake your browser footprint to any website you visit. Location Guard will add noise to your location, even if they use your IP to locate you, but you can also fake your language and altitude/longitude in Chameleon. Funny when you visit YouTube and it starts in German in Spanish (or any other language you like), isn't it?

You don't owe anything to anyone. Disclosing who you are is not the purpose of your existence in the Internet, last but not least as everything exported from you is to be use to your detriment - I.e. profiling, stealing your data, learning more about you (then possibly using it against you even if "benevolently")... And the thing about the above is not about hackers, it's about governments and their private contractors hired to spy on you. Like Google/Alphabet, Track Data Corporation, the Halliburton Company and many, many more...
 

Digitalzone

Posts: 163   +97

It's like fighting windmills. If you want more privacy, get an iphone. And I say that as cheap *** with Xiaomi. Apple doesn't need your data as google does. They sell stuff. Maybe I am naive regarding that, but I seriously consider iphone much better platform regarding privacy.
 

Avro Arrow

Posts: 1,016   +1,147
TechSpot Elite
It amazes me how much like sheep people are. First, they're using Internet Exploder because it was included with Windows and Microsoft was the biggest company putting a browser out at the time. Then, when IE died, the majority of users went to Google (I'm guessing, again, because it was the largest company that made a browser) despite Firefox being better than both with regard to functionality (IE was slow and broken), versatility (the first browser to have add-ons) and hardware impact (Chrome is a notorious resource-hog, especially for RAM).

I've used Firefox for close to 20 years now and every time I read that (insert browser name here) was faster or better, I'd try it, decide that it wasn't and go back. I've tried Edge, Chrome and Opera but none of them were as good (to me anyway) as Firefox. To this day, everyone I know who's a serious techie prefers Firefox.
 

lostinlodos

Posts: 171   +41
On the flip side this is a sad day for those of us willing to support sites via advertising or hat is of interest to onus.

A few months of ignored non-targeted advertising producing little to no revenue: then what. I expect to be back here in 26-28 months looking at all the people complaining how the internet is behind paywalls and why did this happen.
I’ll be sure to point out ‘you asked for this’!

I support opt out. I settled with opt in. Being forced to dig into settings on browsers and apps to turn on tracking. This is going to have major repercussions.