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Google is phasing out 3rd-party cookies – here's what that means for your privacy

Google Germany Opens Berlin Representation Office Getty 012219
Posted at 1:51 PM, Mar 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-12 14:08:42-05

Google is taking a step back, recently announcing they won’t track users as they browse the internet after ending support for third-party cookies.

These cookies have been allowing digital advertising and ad tech to thrive.

”That ad is placing a third-party cookie in your browser, so what's happening is that Chrome and other browsers that are doing this, are taking that cookie and they are reselling it to someone else. So that’s what they're saying they are going to stop doing,” said Donald McLaughlin, a cybersecurity consultant.

He said while Google is not going to support third-party cookies, they are still keeping some of your information.

“They're not going to stop tracking you based on your searches or email,” McLaughlin said.

The more information of ours that’s out there, the bigger the push to keep it out of those companies’ hands.

“We see a movement towards more privacy,” he said.

“Surveillance capitalism has been growing over the last 20 years. The technological abilities to frankly spy on people and track their every movement are really profound,” said Dr. Jen Golbeck, Professor in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland.

So what does this mean for your privacy?

“This move by Google suggests some of the big players are starting to think maybe we don't need to track every individual in every way we technically can,” Dr. Golbeck said. “There may be ways to make the money they want and not keep all that individual information”

One concept is to group people together, rather than targeting individuals.

“The idea here I think is to create groups of customers instead of individually identifiable tracking opportunities so they can pre-segment these customer groups for advertisers based on their buying behaviors,” said Melissa Akaka, an Associate Professor of Marketing at the University of Denver.

For ad companies, it’s going to change the way they present those advertisements. For brands, it could change their customer relationships.

“Companies are going to have to really think through who their customers are and how they can build longer lasting relationships with them,” Akaka said.

Although Google is making this change, not many other big tech companies are following suit.

“Apple is really the only other big tech company we see pushing privacy in a really serious way, and frankly more seriously than Google is,” Dr. Golbeck said. “Facebook hasn't really shown an interest in reducing that kind of individual knowledge, that's really the cornerstone of their business at this point.”

She said Google is simply getting ahead of future policy.

“I don’t think the tech companies care what people want. They care about making money. But if people want their privacy protected and they're going to push for regulation that affects the company, they're going to respond in that way and I think they see that coming. There is this new public understanding and push for more privacy,” Dr. Golbeck said.