What Does The Privacy Sandbox Initiative Mean For Advertisers?
Google’s Big Commitment
In early June of this year, Google announced its commitment to making the web a more private and secure place. Google’s announcement was in regards to their Initiative titled “Privacy Sandbox.” The announcement came with a brief overview of Google’s plan for protecting consumer privacy, mainly surrounding how websites collect data and how advertisers use that data. Google noted that they understand that Many publishers and advertisers rely on online advertising to fund their website, and therefore balance is key. The United Kingdom’s Competition And Markets Authority (CMA) informed Google that they would be investigating the Privacy Sandbox in January of 2021. Additionally, the CMA has been working collaboratively with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to provide direct input to Google on the Privacy Sandbox Initiative; Something Google believes to be a great opportunity. Regulations put into place may become legally binding and implemented worldwide. Google explains in this post that they will continuously provide updates and changes to the Information Sandbox plan as it develops and will continue working with the regulators, industry partners, and privacy experts to protect people’s privacy online. (https://blog.google/around-the-globe/google-europe/our-commitments-privacy-sandbox/)
What Is The Privacy Sandbox Exactly?
As time progresses, the form in which the Privacy Sandbox will change and develop before its fully launched in mid-2023. As of now, Google has provided us with a pretty good idea of what we should expect the Privacy sandbox to look like in the coming years. In short, the Privacy Sandbox Initiative is an open-source effort to develop a set of new technologies in the form of web standards. There have been 30 proposals made so far since testing launched with a small number of Chrome users in 2019. Generally speaking, the Privacy Sandbox Initiative hopes to accomplish quite a bit, like consumer fraud and spam protection, greater data anonymity, and tracking restrictions. Holistically, Google’s Initiative consists of three main pillars:
- Prevent tracking as consumers browse the web.
- Enable publishers to build sustainable sites that respect your privacy.
- Preserve the vitality of the open web.
Thus far, five of the 30 proposals have been or are soon to be implemented on Google Chrome for testing. The five currently being tested deal with things like fraud detection, the tailoring of content, first-party treatment of a company’s owned and related domains, ads measurement, and a private-by-default way to request browser info.
So What Does This Mean For Advertisers?
Advertisers may be wondering, should I be worried about the Privacy Sandbox Initiative? The answer, in short, is no. Google generates a substantial percentage of its overall revenue from Google Ads. It’s where Alphabet, Google’s parent company, generates 80% of its revenue, $147 billion in 2020 alone, according to Alphabet’s revenue report. That being said, Google considers companies that advertise to be significant stakeholders in implementing the Privacy Sandbox. Let’s take a deeper dive into the major changes for advertisers.
No More 3rd Party Cookies.
- 3rd party cookies are a useful but invasive form of data collection that goes against Google’s commitment to data anonymity. These cookies track individual users and help websites and advertisers tailor their information to provide a better web experience. Fully removing these cookies without an alternative led to a poor user experience. Google, however, created what is called the Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC.) The FLoC operates on the concept of safety in numbers. Currently, cookies will take data from web users, store that data, and tailor web content and advertising to their interests. (FloC) takes a different approach. (Floc) uses techniques such as differential privacy, k-anonymity, and on-device processing. What this means, in essence, is that first, user data is sent back and forth with no personal identifiers of consumers. Second, Individuals are put into data sets based on search history. Opposed to cookies, these individuals are then put into a group of 1,000 people. This means to a website or advertiser; you are indistinguishable from the 999 other people in your set. And third, computation takes place on your device and is not shared with any external server. Google’s testing has confirmed that (Floc) is at least 95% as effective as cookies when looking at conversions per dollar spent; a bit of good news for advertisers. When fully implemented, the change in conversions will be essentially unnoticeable.
End of Fingerprinting and Covert Tracking.
- Fingerprinting is the process of collecting data from individuals such as screen size, resolution, web browser, etc., to identify individuals using their site. The problem with this is you do not consent to this practice per se. There is no straightforward way to opt-in or out of this practice when entering a site. This is viewed to be a little sneaky, hence the term “Covert Tracking.” Google plans to implement a limit of information that a website can collect on users. As a result, websites need to be more specific about what kinds of information they are tracking.
Ads Based On Sites You’ve Visited
- The use of consumer data collected by cookies has made the task of getting your ad in front of the right people online much more streamlined. They allow you to understand what types of sites and products your users are interested in, their interests, and if they are in the market for specific products. Without these tools, an advertiser’s job becomes challenging. The question becomes, without the reliance on cookies, how will I reach the right people? Google, however, has proposed a solution to this problem. The concept is simple: as consumers move across the web, sites of advertisers they have visited can inform their browser that they would like to show you ads in the future. Advertisers can even directly share information with your browser, including the specific ads they’d like to show you and how much they’d be willing to pay to show you an ad.
When Will This All Be Implemented?
The Privacy Sandbox has been in testing for some time now and is still a ways off from being fully implemented. Google has simplified the process and has established two Stages. These Stages will take place over several months and are relatively general at this time. Stage one will occur after Google has completed testing all of the proposals, resulting in a clearly defined definition of what the Privacy Sandbox will mean for Google users.
Stage 1 (Starting Late 2022)
- During this stage, publishers and the advertising industry will be given nine months to migrate their systems over to comply with the new measures. This nine-month period is more or less an estimate, and stage 2 will not be fully launched until Google has had the chance to thoroughly monitor this process’s adaptation and feedback.
Stage 2 (Starting Mid 2023)
- During this stage, Google will begin phasing out third-party cookies over three months.
What the Privacy Sandbox will ultimately look like in the end is not 100% clear as of now, and publishers and advertisers need to stay up to date with new info Google provides. Information on the timeline of the Privacy Sandbox can be found on Google’s Blog “The Keyword” Or (privacysandbox.com.)