Google has announced a new initiative that it is aiming at improving user privacy on the web. The goal is to develop a set of open standards that will fundamentally enhance privacy on the internet, and it's called the Privacy Sandbox.
There are many issues with privacy online today, and Google notes that technology that pushes publishers and advertisers to make advertising more relevant to people is being used beyond its original intent. Some of the data practices no longer match what users expect for privacy. Some browsers are trying to address the problem, but without a set of standards, some attempts at improving privacy have unintended consequences.
One of the things that is having unintended consequences is the blocking of cookies at scale. Google says that the blocking of cookies is undermining the privacy of users by encouraging opaque techniques like fingerprinting. Fingerprinting is a way developers came up with to use tiny bits of information that vary between users, like the device they are on and fonts installed, to generate a unique identifier that can be matched to a user across the web.
Unlike cookies, users can't clear fingerprints, and that leaves the user unable to control how their information is collected. Google thinks that subverts user choice and is inherently wrong. Google also says that blocking cookies without another way to deliver relevant ads reduces the primary means of funding for publishers and jeopardizes the future of a vibrant web. Google cites a study that shows when cookies are blocked, the less relevant ads cost publishers as much as 52% of their revenue.
Google is working with web communities to develop standards that will advance privacy and support free access to content. Google has shared potential uses, including new ways to ensure that ads are relevant for users, but user data shared is minimal. The search giant also noted that it can take action to stop some issues quickly on Chrome, such as blocking fingerprinting. Google also announced this week it was dropping the dessert-inspired naming for Android and going with Android 10 for the next release.