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Google will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals, it said on Wednesday, a year after it decided to phase out third-party cookies that store user information when people browse websites on Chrome. The decision has been taken to protect user privacy.

“Today, we are making explicit that once third-party cookies are phased out, we will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will we use them in our products. We don’t believe these solutions will meet rising consumer expectations for privacy, nor will they stand up to rapidly evolving regulatory restrictions and, therefore, aren’t a sustainable long-term investment," said David Temkin, director of product management, ads privacy and trust, Google, in a blog post.

The company, which relies heavily on digital advertising using user data, said it will not track individual-level data such as personally identifiable information (PII) graphs based on people’s email addresses.

Instead, it will build web products that will be powered by privacy-preserving APIs that prevent individual tracking, while still delivering results for advertisers and publishers. It means that Google will have cohort-level data on users based on their browsing behaviour and interests.

“People shouldn’t have to accept being tracked across the web to get the benefits of relevant advertising. Advertisers don’t need to track individuals across the web to get the performance benefits of digital advertising," Temkin noted.

Advances in aggregation, anonymization, on-device processing and other privacy-preserving technologies offer a clear path to replacing individual identifiers, Google said.

In 2020, it proposed interest-based advertising called Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC). This env-isaged groups of people with common interests replacing individual identifiers.

“Chrome intends to make FLoC-based cohorts available for public testing through origin trials with its next release this month and we expect to begin testing FLoC-based cohorts with advertisers in Google Ads in Q2. Chrome will offer the first iteration of new user controls in April and will expand on these controls later as more proposals reach the origin trial stage and they receive more feedback," Temkin said.

Google also emphasized that it will provide support for solutions to develop first-party relationships on its ad platforms for partners in which they have direct connections with customers.

The search giant, which dominates digital advertising spends globally including India, admitted that using user data has led to erosion of trust. As much as 72% of people feel that almost all of what they do online is being tracked by advertisers, technology firms and other firms, while 81% say the potential risks they face because of data collection outweigh the benefits, Google said, quoting a study by think tank Pew Research Center.

Unny Radhakrishnan, the chief executive of digital agency Digitas India, noted that it is a confirmation that Google will advance FLoC and said it will impact many of the third-party optimization tools.

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