3 Pro-Privacy Moves from Google, and 1 Way Brands Can Still Hold Their Ground

For a world dominated by talk of social platforms, “privacy”
seems to be the word on everyone’s lips lately.

Facebook has touted its next steps as hospitable to a world
where in-group conversations and ephemeral messaging reign.
Apple’s most recent update to its Safari browser has taken
draconian measures to limit cookies. And Google is joining in on
the conversation, with CEO Sundar Pichai
taking a strong stance
by saying, “Privacy should not be a
luxury good. We’re also working hard to challenge the assumption
that products need more data to be helpful.” Three recent product
updates from the company reflect their commitment to the latter
statement, but what impact will these moves have on their success
in – and the industry’s reliance on – the advertising tech
business?

C is for Cookies, and Clarity

The three tenets Google has adopted to articulate their
philosophy on privacy are transparency, control, and respect for
user choice. Their
forthcoming capability for cookies
, in many ways, addresses all
three of those tenets. A number of existing Chrome features are due
for an overhaul, and will result in users having more control over
how cookies are collected and how they can be removed.

A key element of this process is creating a clear distinction
between third-party cookies (collected based on your actions taken
online) and first-party cookies (information you input and request
to have saved, like purchasing information and passwords). By
ensuring that these types of cookies are differentiated from one
another, users can remove information that informs their ad
displays but still “remember” things like credit card numbers
or challenging passwords.

Fighting Back with Browsers

Browser functionality is essential in enacting the changes
listed above. To that end, several additional changes were
announced specifically for Chrome, the market-leading web browser,
as well as extensions for its competitors Mozilla Firefox and Apple
Safari. First, the Chrome
team is fighting back against what it calls ‘opaque tracking’
strategies
, which don’t use cookies but do still capture user
information. “Fingerprinting,” or the process of mining and
aggregating data on browser type, IP address, time zone, and
language, will be cracked down upon considerably.

But the transparency won’t stop there. For data that has
already been collected and is in use for ad targeting, a new
browser extension will demystify the ad “serving” process. Per
AdWeek, “if a user is served an ad for a brand, the extension
will tell them who paid for the placement plus the additional data
segments used to personalize ads and the companies involved with
the process.” Put another way by Google’s Senior VP for ads and
commerce, “We want to give users more visibility into the data
used to personalize ads and the companies involved in the
process.” As calls for privacy grow ever louder from consumers
rightfully concerned about their data and its safety, these
measures go a long way to address and quiet those worries.

Saying “Later” to Locations and “Adios” to Activities

Earlier this month, the company announced that it was creating a
capability to
delete location and activity history from Google accounts
.
Users can toggle settings to keep this information forever, delete
it after three months, or delete it after eighteen months. Compared
to their nearest competitor in the ad market, Facebook – whose
analogous feature has been delayed several times, Google seems more
open to the possibility of holding less information from their
users. Per CNET, you can also opt to disable web and app activity
tracking.

CNET has opined that “for [Google’s focus on privacy] to
work, Pichai’s promise [to optimize products with less data] has
to be sincere.” And in a number of ways, they’re taking
concrete actions that demonstrate that it is, at least for now. But
in light of the considerable power these moves give Google users
and prospective consumers, where do advertisers find themselves
now?

Time to Ask Before You Act

Needless to say, rumors about proposed changes to this mammoth
company’s ad practices (Google Ads is the largest player in the
ad tech game, holding 31% of the market share) created worries for
advertisers and brands. But
they’re reportedly open to the changes that have been
proposed
, with S4 Capital’s head Martin Sorrell calling them
“a good move.” He went on to share an important note for those
grasping for new strategy in light of this newly empowered consumer
base: the more difficult advertisers have it when accessing data on
how their campaigns perform, the more important it will be for
brands to have a direct relationship with consumers.

At last fall’s Social Media Week London, this exact challenge
came up during “Can
Privacy and Personalization Co-Exist?
Wayin’s Rich
Jones
insisted that this new consumer awareness of ad
targeting practices was not only the end of this era of marketing,
but that “it’s going to make us better.” Brands who can
connect meaningfully with prospective customers, earning their
trust rather than co-opting it through data they may not have
realized they’re sharing, will perform at a higher level and with
more brand loyalty.

So yes, targeting may be a little less exact than before now
that there’s more ease over controlling your data. What will you
do with the attention you do garner? How will you use in good and
trustworthy ways? The challenge course is now set, thanks to
Google—it’s on us to do the right, smart, and better thing.

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The post
3 Pro-Privacy Moves from Google, and 1 Way Brands Can Still Hold
Their Ground
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3 Pro-Privacy Moves from Google, and 1 Way Brands Can Still Hold Their Ground