The Future of Privacy — and How You Can Prepare

By Chetna Bindra

This article has been updated to reflect ongoing evolutions in Google’s Privacy Sandbox initiative. Topics, a new proposal for interest-based advertising, has replaced the FLoC proposal.

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.

  • Instead of tracking individuals across the web to find out their interests, the browser will share the observed topics of recently visited sites without any connection to an individual.
  • 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.
  • Instead of measuring how people respond to ads in a way that could reveal their identity, individuals can be kept anonymous by limiting how much data can be shared about them.

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.




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 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 some 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.

To learn more about the steps you can take today to help you navigate the changing privacy environment, read our privacy playbook for marketers and publishers.

This article first appeared on Think with Google