Google`s Privacy Sandbox to protect users` privacy on the web

Joanna Estrada
August 24, 2019

A well-targeted ad works well.

The need for more privacy while surfing the web has been a hot topic lately, and while some organizations are creating initiatives to bolster that need, Google found that an agreed upon set of standards was essential to steer user privacy in the right direction.

This new proposal has a clear mention of a feature in the Google Chrome browser that will allow chrome users to block the tracking easily.

The privacy sandbox is "a secure environment for personalization that also protects user privacy", said Justin Schuh, a director of Chrome engineering focused on security matters, in a privacy sandbox blog post.

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. If you don't understand fingerprinting then here is an example.

Google has put together a number of explainers about potential uses for Privacy Sandbox, which you'll find over on the Chromium website. The only problem? The same technologies can technically map out your web browsing history, which some critics say is tantamount to surveillance.

That, however, would undercut moves made by Apple and Firefox to restrict cookies and improve web browsers' privacy, moves that Google has described as "heavy handed". To address this Google announced its Privacy Sandbox initiative.

According to Schuh, the cookie blocking will force the web industry to resort to opaque forms of web tracking with no way for users to opt out. "This includes fingerprinting", a tracking technique that involves collecting information about your computer, including the settings and browser version, to identify your internet presence and track which websites you've been visiting.

"Unlike cookies, users can not clear their fingerprint, and therefore can not control how their information is collected", added Schuh. "We think this subverts user choice and is wrong", Schuh added. 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.

The search engine giant makes most of its revenue through advertising and worries that browser vendors' efforts to limit tracking through cookie blocking will lower publisher incomes by more than half, without improving privacy.

When the company and its partners figure out how federated learning can be deployed for better campaign targeting, it will delight customers as well as advertisers. Instead, the goal is to remove individual identifying information from the process.

The privacy sandbox, the result of months of work by Google researchers, is a major step that, if it works and is accepted by websites and advertisers, could help Google out of its privacy pickle.

"It's going to be a multi-year journey", said Schuh.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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