There are flashpoint moments like Cambridge Analytica or major data breaches, but privacy concerns remain a low rumbling noise in the background for most people using online platforms and connected devices.
At Google’s I/O conference this week, the company took steps to address this. Well, a bit. It will apply stricter controls on tracking users. So that’s good. But only on those using Chrome. “We know our work on privacy and security is never done, and we want to do more to stay ahead,” said Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO, at the event.
The follows Apple starting to restrict user tracking on the Safari browser two years ago. This could have implications for those advertising online as they might see their results becoming less precise. Given that Google controls a significant chunk of online ad revenue, it’s hard to imagine it’s going to pull the rug too swiftly away from under its own feet here.
Tom Edwards, chief innovation officer at Epsilon, suggests that Google may already have this covered. “Google is using machine learning algorithms that will literally be integrated into a person’s phone, which in turn will drive prediction and understand affinity across its users without necessarily targeting the individual,” he told AdAge. “It makes sense that this type of approach would be how Google will be able to sustain a monetization approach while still providing incognito support … They won’t be sending data to the cloud; it will all happen on the device.” Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Google has also expanded its “incognito” setting (formerly just a toggle option on Chrome for anonymous browsing) that can now apply to both search and maps.