Google may be working on a new anonymous online identifier system called AdID that could replace third-party cookies and, in doing so, threaten to shake up the $120bn online marketing industry.
The advertising industry didn't appreciate Mozilla's plans earlier this year to block third-party cookies in Firefox by default, but it may have a bigger issue to contend with if Google — both an online advertising heavyweight and maker of the world's second most-popular browser — launches AdID, short for Anonymous identifier for advertising.
Citing an unnamed source familiar with Google's plan, USA Today reported that Google could use AdID, implemented in the browser, to replace the third-party cookies used by marketers to track people's online behaviour and better target their advertising.
AdID would automatically reset every year and give people the option to create a secondary AdID for sessions they want kept private, according to the USA Today.
Advertisers would get access to AdID as long as they agreed to basic guidelines, which would aim to deliver users greater privacy and control over how they browse the web, including an option to control list of approved advertisers and blacklist specific firms.
Google will reportedly put the proposal in front of the advertising and marketing industry, government and consumer groups, in the coming weeks and months, but the company has denied it has immediate plans to implement AdID.
"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," a Google spokesman told the paper.
Google's UK office did not respond to ZDNet's request for comment.
The system would be the latest threat to third-party cookies. While Safari has long blocked third-party cookies by default, Mozilla added a tweak to its Nightly Firefox build in February that required users of it to directly interact with a site for a cookie to be installed — a move that some in the industry were none too pleased with.
Mozilla suspended third-party cookie blocking in its pre-Beta Aurora Firefox build in June because it was too imprecise, according to Mozilla's CTO Brendan Eich.
Instead, Mozilla and Opera began working with Stanford's Center for Internet and Society to create list-based exception mechanism called the Cookie Clearinghouse.