Significant changes are occurring behind the scenes in the ways we use the internet. Hopefully, these modifications will have a positive impact on users’ privacy online. At the very least, your data will not be as freely exchanged between companies you have never heard about.
What’s behind this change is the tech industry shunning the default tracking of users by third-party cookies. These text files give you a unique user ID stored on your computer from the websites you visit.
These allow advertisers to create your profile and design targeted advertising campaigns. The initial date for blocking third-party cookies on Chrome was 2022. However, it turned out to be an unrealistic timeline, which resulted in the change being delayed until 2023. Of course, some providers already block such cookies, like Mozilla. Unfortunately, Google Chrome is the most popular browser, and its changes would affect millions of users.
Whom are the Changes Going to Help?
While users would expect the third-party cookie ban to be for them, it might not be the case. For instance, Google will have your browser store your details for creating targeted ads instead of having any third party create user profiles. This mechanism puts the browser in total control of the advertising mechanism.
This new system suggested is called the Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) by Google is a part of what forms their “privacy sandbox.” However, experts speculate it to be a ploy to re-design targeted advertising, giving the browser complete control over it after nudging out other companies. Brookman does, however, go on to say that it might still be good for your privacy as your data will remain only with a few companies.
Why are These Changes Happening?
Of late, users have been trying to prevent their constant online tracking. Investigations carried out by the government and media reveal worrying privacy violations. In 2019, Facebook had to shell out a whopping $5 billion fine for denying users the control over their data privacy that was promised.
There has also been legislation like the GDPR in Europe, which makes it mandatory for companies to get user consent before using tracking cookies. It has made companies take a relook at their privacy practices. Other elements of legislation like the California Consumer Privacy Act give a certain amount of data protection to Californians.
What Should You Do?
Google Chrome will allow third-party cookies by default till 2023. To prevent advertisers from targeting you using the data stored by cookies, experts suggest that you change your privacy settings on Chrome. You can already block third-party cookies. However, many users might not check their settings, keeping default ones.
Those who are critical of Google’s FLoC system, like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, argue that while the technology will indeed help avoid the privacy risks posed by third-party cookies, it will also create new ones. Bennett Cyphers from the foundation notes that non-privacy problems with behavioral ads like discrimination and predatory targeting may only rise.
To counter this technology, the privacy company DuckDuckGo has launched a new browser extension. Under the current systems and the ones being developed, Google will still track your activities when you sign into its services. As a countermeasure, you can ensure greater privacy by making certain changes to the platforms you use, like YouTube.
Other browsers like Microsoft’s Edge and Firefox allow users to make changes to their settings for greater privacy. You can also limit ad targeting on Apple. Facebook can still learn a lot about your surfing activities from everything that you put on their sites or the sites you sign on to using Facebook. Change the privacy settings on Facebook as well to prevent yourself from being tracked.
Install a VPN
A very effective countermeasure against tracking and other privacy invasions is a Virtual Private Network. This app is responsible for encrypting your internet traffic and hiding your IP address. It is extremely user-friendly, as you only need to connect to a server you prefer. In other words, a couple of taps and clicks will do the trick.
Using a VPN on your smartphone is a must since you carry your mobile device everywhere you go. Thus, advertisers can constantly examine which local promotional content to show you. However, a PC VPN is also a necessity. After all, you perform highly confidential activities (like logging into your bank account) on your home computer. Thus, you need to protect your privacy both on mobile devices and on your PC.
Users are resisting their online tracking more than ever before. Thus, we see many positive innovations in this sector. However, it might take a while for true protection to be put in place. As a result, you are in charge of selecting privacy-focused products and protecting your data.