Goodbye, tracking cookies? Don’t celebrate just yet

13 Oct

October 11, 2013

Is there something in the water? First Google, now Microsoft, is rumored to be working on technologies to replace tracking cookies for online advertising.

The secrecy surrounding these projects is no big deal, but what’s bound to be a big deal is if they replace a well-known  (if a widely hated) system with a complete unknown.

Word about Google’s “AdID” technology started circulating back in September, when USA Today reported about “an anonymous identifier for advertising … that would replace third-party cookies” for the sake of end-user ad-tracking. The system is allegedly intended to give consumers “more privacy and control over how they browse the Web,” and would be used with advertisers that have “agreed to basic guidelines” — although it’s not clear if those guidelines are designed to better favor consumers or advertisers.

USA Today’s anonymous source within Google couldn’t give more details, in part because the proposal was soon slated to be circulated amongst “industry participants, government bodies and consumer groups.”

Speculation has since raged about what Google is planning and to what end. Some believe Google may be trying to follow the same model Apple created for iOS via its iAd platform — the latter of which attracted unwanted attention from U.S. regulatory agencies back in 2010 (and which may well have been instrumental in allowing Google to purchase AdMob in the same timeframe).

When Google was pressed for more details, a “Google spokesperson” (according to multiple outlets) would only reply: “We believe that technological enhancements can improve users’ security while ensuring the Web remains economically viable. We and others have a number of concepts in this area, but they’re all at very early stages.”

Those two words, “and others”, might well have been a hedge, but perhaps Google knew something that everyone else has just now gotten wind of as well.

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