Google is planning an add-on to its Chrome browser that would limit companies' use of tracking cookies, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.
The move could further bolster the company’s digital ad business, which is the largest in the world. As early as this week, Google could add a widget to its Chrome browser that would let users know more about how they’re being tracked and what options they have to fight that data collection.
Other browsers, such as Apple’s Safari or Mozilla Firefox, restrict the majority of tracking cookies altogether. The move by Google might be announced at the company’s developer conference on Tuesday, and it’s expected to be a part of the company’s new so-called commitment to privacy.
The changes aren’t expected to have a huge effect on Google’s digital ad business.
A cookie is a text file that lets companies follow a user around the internet and gather information about what sites they visit and the things they look at or click on. They were invented in 1994 to let eCommerce sites handle things like remembering when someone puts an item in a cart.
They also have helped companies collect data and sell more ads based on that information.
Google doesn’t want to get rid of the helpful cookies, like the ones that store login information. It’s targeting cookies by third-party profit seekers, separate from the owner of a website someone might be visiting.
Some analysts predict that Google’s move could fundamentally change the digital advertising business.
“It really strikes at the Achilles’ heel of the ad tech ecosystem,” said Ratko Vidakovic, a Toronto-based consultant in the digital ad industry.
The plan to tighten up and target cookies has been around for at least six years, but work on it sped up after the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal.
The effort is not simple. Google first wanted to make a browser identifier, which would link to everything a user does and is similar to what advertisers could see, but the project proved too complicated as it required the altering of millions of lines of code as well as potentially forcing the renegotiations of thousands of agreements.