Google now wants to crack down on cookies to convince you it cares about privacy

Andy Meek

On the heels of Google’s announcement that an awesome new privacy tool is coming that users can rely on to auto-delete their location history, now we’re getting word of a new dashboard-like tool that’s also coming to the company’s Chrome browser and which represents another pro-privacy move — or, at least, the semblance of one. The dashboard will let you have a greater understanding of the cookies that are tracking you online, in addition to giving you a way to limit them.

This news comes via The Wall Street Journal, which reports that the search giant has actually been working on this tool for six years. It was an on-again, off-again project at the company that started to pick up speed last year in the post-Cambridge Analytica era.

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We said above that this move has the “semblance” of a pro-privacy effort, because of course the importance of cookies has waned a bit in recent years, thanks in part to the impact of smartphones and mobile browsers on web activity. So it’s questionable how courageous and pro-privacy a move this really is. In fact, the early stage of this project included Google reportedly pondering the creation of something called a “browser identifier” tied to everything you do on the web that advertisers would also be able to see. Along with that feature, users would be able to switch it on and off, though Google scrapped the plan after deciding it was too technically complex.

The WSJ report tries to make clear that this new tool — which might be announced at Google’s developer conference which starts tomorrow and would start to roll out as early as this week — is mostly about cracking down on cookies from third-parties. Not the cookies utilized by a website a user is visiting to make sure the user experience is an optimal one.

The tool also doesn’t seem like it will go as far as (and will be more incremental than) the cookie-limiting feature backed into the Safari and Firefox browsers, which the report notes introduced updates that limited most tracking cookies in 2017 and 2018. But of course we’ll have to wait and see what Google ultimately announces for the definitive details.

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