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Google to stop tracking users for targeted ads

Google to stop tracking users for targeted ads
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Google will stop tracking users across their internet searches to sell targeted ads, the tech giant said Wednesday. 

Google confirmed in a blog post that it will not build alternative methods to track users after phasing out its existing tracking methods, which involve using third-party cookies.

“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,” David Temkin, Google’s director of product management, ads, privacy and trust, said in a blog post.

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Google announced last year it would phase out third-party cookies with a goal of doing so within two years, meaning the tech giant may stop tracking users by early 2022. The plan was part of Google’s larger privacy initiative, known as Privacy Sandbox, aimed at developing standards to enhance web privacy. 

Google’s plan to phase out third-party cookies was already facing pushback from some in the advertising industry. The United Kingdom’s competition watchdog in January said it would probe Google’s plans to remove third-party cookies after a request from the group Markers for an Open Web, Reuters reported

Temkin in the announcement, however, said Google’s products will be powered by “privacy-preserving APIs which prevent individual tracking while still delivering results for advertisers and publishers.” 

“People shouldn’t have to accept being tracked across the web in order to get the benefits of relevant advertising. And advertisers don't need to track individual consumers across the web to get the performance benefits of digital advertising,” he said. 

For example, he pointed to Google’s data released in January that showed a method to “effectively” take third-party cookies out of advertising. The proposed method instead would allow ads to reach people with relevant content and ads by “clustering” groups of people with similar interests, rather than specific individuals. 

Google’s plan to phase out tracking users for targeted ads comes as Apple is set to release a feature that would require apps to get users' permission before tracking their data across apps and websites. 

Google’s announcement on Wednesday only applies to websites, but a company spokesperson said Google will "continue to invest in privacy preserving technology for mobile." 

Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature is scheduled to be released in early spring. It was delayed amid fierce pushback from Facebook.