Google wants to balance personal advertising and privacy with new privacy technologies in the Chrome browser . Incidentally, the company explains why blocking cookies is bad for privacy.
In several announcements and blog entries Google introduces various projects and ideas for the protection of privacy. Among other things, the in-house browser should better protect Chrome from tracking. However, the flagship company in terms of collecting and marketing data does not become a privacy advocate.
The question then is not how the browser can consistently anonymize users and protect their data, but what “the browser could do so that an online medium can continue to select relevant content or display relevant advertisements for it while providing as little information as possible about their browsing history “. The word relevant in this case is Google’s paraphrasing for personal.
So Chrome does not want consistent privacy, but a balance of interests between data collectors and the user’s privacy. “The mission is clear: we need to ensure that people around the world can continue to access ad-supported content on the Web while being confident that their privacy is protected,” the blog entry says .
For example, with a technique called Privacy Budget , tracking should still be allowed but restricted. “Web pages should only be able to retrieve APIs until those calls have given enough information to limit a user to a group large enough” to avoid identifying them, a Chrome developer explains. However, exceptions should apply to 3D games or videoconferencing that could not work with API restrictions restricted. Here, however, the user should be asked for permission.
In addition, the default data sent with a request should be cut. Thus, the information about which operating system a user uses is not needed by most websites and could just as well be requested via an API – a request that in turn uses up some of the privacy budget.
Instead of tracking cookies and fingerprinting, the browser itself should determine the general interests of a user, for example via the visited URLs. Through a federated network, the browser should find users with similar interests. The system behind it is called Google Federated Learning of Cohorts (Floc). The common interest is then made available via an Floc key or Flock for ad networks.
Neither New Nor Mature:
Google’s new ideas are anything but new, write Jonathan Mayer and Arvind Narayanan, professors at Princton University, in a blog post . For over ten years, the topic is being researched and rejected by Google as technically unfeasible.
In addition, Google’s announcements are focused exclusively on tracking, but could also targeted, behavioral advertising – Google calls them relevant ads – pose a problem for the privacy of users. “If an ad uses very personal information to exploit emotional vulnerabilities or psychological dispositions to make a purchase, it will hurt privacy – regardless of the technical details,” the researchers write.
At the same time, however, Google argues about the importance of relevant advertising for users and the open internet.
“Cookies Blocking Endangers Privacy”
According to Google, blocking cookies in a big way endangers users’ privacy, as companies would bet on even worse browser fingerprinting . Mayer and Narayanan countered, “To honor the absurdity of this argument, imagine local police saying,” We see our city has a pickpocketing problem, but if we act against pickpocketing, pickpockets will simply switch to raids It would be even worse, surely you do not want that, right? “
Google further argues that if cookies were blocked without a tracking alternative, online media could earn less. “If advertising loses its relevance by blocking cookies, publishers’ funding is cut by an average of 52 percent, as recent studies show,” explains Google. However, the current studies are an in-house survey by Google itself. According to Mayer and Narayanan, independent studies do not come to this conclusion.
By no means does Google mention its own business interests in the blog entries, rather than Google as an institution of reconciliation of interests: “We want to find a solution that both protects the privacy of users and helps to ensure that content remains freely accessible on the web . ” It is mainly Google’s interest that content is still supposed to be offered free of charge and refinanced through tracking and advertising.
Chrome Keeps Falling Back:
Mozilla and Apple have been working on tracking protection for their browsers for quite some time and have already implemented some protection features. Safaris protection against tracking cookies was even actively bypassed by Google. But these protective functions are not very far . Greater protection is provided by enhancements such as uBlock Origin or Privacy Badger. However, Google’s functionality in Chrome is severely limited by an interface change.
Such enhancements cited Google’s parent company Alphabet as an immediate threat in an annual report to the US Securities and Exchange Commission : “Most of our Google revenue comes from fees paid in connection with delivering online ads, which could result in such technologies and tools affect our operating results. “
In this respect, the initiative could also be a flight forwards: users are promised a bit more privacy, while Google’s tracking and advertising business can continue to deliver targeted advertising with a little less data. According to Mayer and Narayanan, “Google is unlikely to provide meaningful web privacy while protecting its business interests.” Therefore, it is not surprising that Chrome falls far behind Safari and Firefox, which concerns the protection of privacy. “It’s disappointing, but not surprisingly, that the Chrome team camouflages Google’s business interests with insincere technical arguments,” the researchers write.