Chrome's Move To Stomp Out Third Party Cookies? Good For Privacy, Good For Google's Ad Business… Or Both?

from the people-are-so-bad-at-systems-thinking dept

We’ve talked in the past how efforts solely focused on “protecting privacy” without looking at the wider tech ecosystem and the challenges its facing may result in unintended consequences, and now we’ve got another example. Google has announced that it’s beginning a process to phase out support for third-party cookies in Chrome. Looking at this solely through the lens of privacy, many privacy advocates are celebrating this move, saying that it will better protect user privacy. But… if you viewed it from a more competitive standpoint, it also does much to give Google significantly more power over the ad market and could harm many other companies. Former Facebook CSO, Alex Stamos’ take is pretty dead on here:

A win for privacy may be a loss for competition — and nearly every big regulatory effort to “deal with” big internet companies is going to play right into those companies’ hands.

For years I’ve been talking about how we need to view privacy as a series of tradeoffs, or any attempt to regulate privacy will go badly. Here, this is even pre-regulation, but just based on the nature of the public narrative that third party cookies must obviously be bad. They can be, but not always. And the end result here is that the “trade off” for protecting more privacy is giving more of the ad market to Google. I’m guessing that most privacy advocates would argue that they don’t want to do that. But if you look solely through the lens of 3rd party cookies and no further — that’s what you get.

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Companies: google

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Comments on “Chrome's Move To Stomp Out Third Party Cookies? Good For Privacy, Good For Google's Ad Business… Or Both?”

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25 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

This is great PR but it’s not really effective for preventing tracking. Many places are already ahead of the game on this and what they are trying to do

One company checks your browser signature, similar to a fingerprint. You drop that site that uses this, delete your cookies, go to another site and they recognize you over several visits. Mostly your signature is fairly unique when reading your browser type, monitor type, text settings, resolution, what extensions you have installed, etc. It’s wholly outside your browser or what settings you have. Changing browsers will help to some extent.

Another setup to track you that doesn’t involve cookies is having an advertising number in your browser or OS. Windows install even asks you about it. That number is unique to your computer and that install. Tracking cookies are a thing they no longer need. Part of the problem seems to be that there’s not enough data room for their purposes with a tracking cookie.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This. Fingerprinting is incredibly easy. You can even tell who is visiting your site via keystrokes rhythm/intervals. Privacy needs to be dealt with at the browser level. It should not give any info to the sites visited unless the user specifically allows it save some general info like browser version and possibly screen resolution. There’s no reason to send more than that.

crade (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You system information can easily be blocked or spoofed by the client so it will only be helpful to them in the short term (until people decide it is a problem) at best. The actual information that is helpful for formatting your result would be nowhere close to unique

The advertising number isn’t unique to your install, they let you reset it to a random number whenever you like, and that is assuming you opt in to using it in the first place.

Federico (profile) says:

Third-party cookies superseded

Google Analytics nowadays stores its formerly third-party cookies as first-party cookies, sending them to Google servers by JavaScript, so it’s no surprise that Google finds them unnecessary.

Don’t worry, even the publishers are "smart" enough to use the same trick. See for instance https://noyb.eu/say-no-to-cookies-yet-see-your-privacy-crumble/ and another one found for Mozilla Firefox’ cookie protection which I cannot find right now.

Google wouldn’t be making this move if there was any serious money left in the practice, IMHO.

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