The search giant joins Apple in shift to a privacy-focused web 

In yet another big step toward a privacy-oriented web, Google has announced the end of a digital ad ecosystem that depends on tracking individuals across the web. 

As the demand for privacy grows from both consumers and regulators, Google today released a statement saying it will be putting an end to cross-site tracking and targeting in all its advertising products.

Google’s move comes on the heels of Apple’s recent decision to give users the choice to block the IDFA identifier at the app level, which means apps will be required to ask users for permission to collect and share data.

“This is yet another confirmation the web is shifting to a consent-oriented framework,” said Nii Ahene, Chief Strategy Officer at Tinuiti. “It’s going to be all about opt-in, not opt-out initiatives.”

 

In a statement, Google said the “proliferation of individual user data across thousands of companies, typically gathered through third-party cookies” has led to “an erosion of trust.”

The announcement went on to say that “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.”

While it is clear many of the behavioral targeting capabilities marketers have relied upon will fade or disappear completely, the details of how exactly this will affect each of Google’s Ad products are yet to be seen. The changes are slated to take place at the end of the year and only impact the open web, not mobile app ads purchased and sold using Google’s ad tech. 

The Google move effectively blocks the use of 3rd party cookie replacement identifiers for cross-site tracking. “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,” Google said.

While it remains to be seen what the fallout will be, at this early stage in the game, Tinuiti predicts the following will be the winners and losers of the changes to Google Advertising. 

Winners:

  • All the keepers of first-party data who have established real relationships with their audiences (beyond just collecting their emails) and can integrate that data  
  • Retail media such as Amazon, Walmart, Instacart, Rite Aid, and other ecommerce sites with access to first-party data 
  • Publishers with robust first-party data

Losers: 

  • Mobile media 
  • Third-party players that rely on cookie replacement identifiers
  • Identity Solutions such as UID 2.0 which achieved widespread adoption as the universal open web solution (email-based authenticated users).

Google’s Privacy Sandbox

In its statement, Google emphasized alternative solutions marketers can use that still protect user privacy. “Advances in aggregation, anonymization, on-device processing, and other privacy-preserving technologies offer a clear path to replacing individual identifiers,” Google said. 

In particular, Google is pushing its Privacy Sandbox solutions, namely FLoC, as “one way to effectively take third-party cookies out of the advertising equation and instead hide individuals within large crowds of people with common interests.” [A FLoC is a cohort of thousands of individuals based on their similar interests derived by the browser from the users’ browsing history.] 

“One big piece that needs to be called out here is that Google has a huge first-party data set of billions of people’s browsing, search, and location histories so their move to not permit the use of alternative identifiers (authenticated users) on their products will make Google more of a ‘walled garden’ as many expected would be the case with the deprecation of third-party cookies,” said Kolin Kleveno, SVP, Addressable Media at Tinuiti.

 

Google will continue to allow ad targeting across its own properties. So, as a hypothetical example, a user logged into Gmail who then uses the Google search engine to look for an item to buy may very well see an ad pop up for that item when they are watching a video on YouTube, which is owned by Google. 

Meta-Takeaways for Marketers

More than ever, marketers need to prepare for the ever-growing importance of contextualization, creative optimization, the influence of influencers, and, of course, first-party data.

Learn more about all things privacy-related and beyond on Tinuiti’s Future of the Web resource hub.

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