Google's anonymous ad tracker AdID 'could replace third-party cookies'

Google's anonymous ad tracker AdID 'could replace third-party cookies'

Summary: Google may introduce a new browser tracking system for advertisers that could kill off cookies placed by third parties.

TOPICS: Privacy, CXO, Google

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.

Further reading

Topics: Privacy, CXO, Google

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • End users win with no Cookies

    Merchants and the bad guys need to stay away from our lives. Cookies actually can show so much about a user, I'm baffled at the fact so little was done to address this until now.

    A lot of websites will require extensive modifications and merchants and those that use cookies will know less about their audience.
  • Ranks are not IDs

    AdIDs are all any website or store needs to know in order to bid on advertising. Anything more is an invasion of user privacy that Google has never needed to abet. Now that Google has engineered at least one, and maybe several alternative technical Google is ready to negotiate security/privacy with the technically competent staff of bloviating regulators.
  • Me want cookies?

    There's no free lunch.
    Most, if not close to all info on the Web is "free".
    How do you expect to keep it going?
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