It might be hard to imagine a functioning digital ads ecosystem without third-party cookies, which are used to track people’s browsing habits across websites. How will you deliver relevant ads that align with people’s interests based on the websites they visit? How will you know whether people interact with your ads across the web and then take action on your website as a result?
Well, that’s the idea behind the Privacy Sandbox, an effort inviting the web community to collaborate on developing privacy-first alternatives to third-party cookies. That way, companies can continue to grow by reaching people with relevant ads—and measuring the results—without needing to track people across the web.
This approach is made possible thanks to privacy-preserving strategies such as the following:
- Instead of tracking individuals across the web to find out what each person might be interested in, people can be put into large groups with similar interests.
- Instead of measuring how people respond to ads in a way that could reveal their identities, individuals can be kept anonymous by limiting how much data can be shared about them.
- Instead of having companies collect people’s information in the course of showing them ads, that information can be kept on each person’s device so it stays private.
A change of this magnitude can certainly seem complicated and technical, but this is where Google and other ad tech companies can help. We’ll do most of the work behind the scenes, switching from third-party cookies to these privacy-first alternatives, so you’ll still be able to buy and sell ads on the platforms you rely on today—but through technology that is private by design.
Here’s how three advertising use cases will be supported by the technology being developed in the Privacy Sandbox:
1. Show people ads based on their interests
In the current approach, third-party cookies are used to track the websites a person visits to determine what that person is interested in.
With the Privacy Sandbox approach, a web browser will put itself into a crowd, or cohort, of thousands of other browsers, all belonging to people with similar browsing habits. This is done in such a way that a person’s specific browsing information never leaves their devices—and stays private.
2. Engage past site visitors
In the current approach, third-party cookies allow a business to reach a specific audience, such as past visitors to its website. For instance, a website’s visitors can be tagged with third-party cookies when they take an action on the site, so ad providers can track them across the web to show them a message from the website later.
With the Privacy Sandbox approach, when people visit a company’s website, the website can tag people’s browsers when they take an action that’s valuable to the company, such as viewing a product. Then, when those people visit other websites with ad space, the browser helps inform what ad might appear without exposing people’s browsing activity in the process.
3. Measure conversions from ads
In the current approach, third-party cookies are used to match a conversion that happens on an advertiser’s website with an ad that was clicked or viewed on the web.
With the Privacy Sandbox approach, a web browser will match a conversation that happens on an advertiser’s website with an ad that was clicked or viewed on the web. The browser will not report information in a way that exposes people’s identities. It will aggregate data and limit the amount of information shared about each conversion.
In addition to these use cases, the Privacy Sandbox also includes proposals for preventing things like ad fraud and device fingerprinting, where data about a device is collected to identify the device’s owner.
How we get there
New open-source browser technologies, like the ones being developed in Chrome’s Privacy Sandbox, typically go through a few stages before being broadly adopted. Proposals generally start with a public evaluation and experimentation period, when companies can discuss, test and provide feedback to build confidence and demonstrate the effectiveness of an approach.
While the proposals mentioned above are currently still in the first stage, the goal is to have each proposal launch as features in Chrome and any browsers that decide to adopt the new technology. Then ad tech companies can start using them in their products.
What you can do now
Changing consumer attitudes toward privacy and regulation mean that we have to come up with an alternative to today’s practice of tracking people across the web. We believe the Privacy Sandbox offers the best path for the industry in the long run, giving businesses the tools they need, while ensuring people get the privacy they want. And, keep in mind, advertising providers like Google will do most of the heavy lifting, swapping out third-party cookies with new, privacy-first technologies behind the scenes.
In the meantime, here are a couple of important steps you can take today that will work well alongside the Privacy Sandbox technologies when they’re ready:
- Look for opportunities to build direct relationships with customers. These relationships should be supported with a comprehensive first-party measurement solution for your website that has the appropriate tagging and consent infrastructure.
- Take advantage of solutions that use automation and machine learning to help identify trends and model results when there are gaps in your data.
This article originally was published on Think with Google.