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Google proposes new privacy standards for browsers and advertisers

The company says it wants to restrict tracking technology

Photo (c) Traitov - Getty Images
Google has proposed a new set of standards, called the “Privacy Sandbox,” that would strike a balance between protecting consumers’ privacy and allowing advertisers to continue showing targeted ads. 

In a blog post published Thursday, Justin Schuh, a director of Chrome engineering focused on security matters, described the privacy sandbox as "a secure environment for personalization that also protects user privacy.” 

The company said its goal is to create a set of standards that is “more consistent with users' expectations of privacy.” Personalized ads would still exist, but users wouldn’t be required to disclose individually identifying information in order to be served relevant ads. 

Minimizing privacy-violating practices 

Google says it’s looking into technology that would enable it to limit user data shared with websites and advertisers by “anonymously aggregating user information, and keeping much more user information on-device only.” In other words, data shared by one person couldn’t be traced back to that individual because their data would form part of a larger group. 

Additionally, Google wants to introduce a "privacy budget" that would limit how much personal information a website can access, which would help stop web fingerprinting.

The success of the plan, as it pertains to boosting users’ privacy, would of course depend on whether or not advertisers, publishers, and other browser developers adopt the standards. Google is currently seeking feedback on its proposal from these groups, as well as privacy advocates. 

Google argues that its proposed standards are a step above Apple’s plan to protect Safari users’ privacy by blocking cookies, which can have consequences for advertisers. 

“Blocking cookies without another way to deliver relevant ads significantly reduces publishers’ primary means of funding, which jeopardizes the future of the vibrant web,” the company said, noting that irrelevant ads served without cookies leads to a roughly 52 percent drop in funding for publishers. 

Google acknowledged that implementing new standards requires “significant thought, debate, and input from many stakeholders, and generally take multiple years.” If Google is ultimately cleared to move forward with its plan, it will likely be a while before Chrome users see the features included in the proposal. 

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