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A sign at Google's Mountain View campus. Photo by Bloomberg.
The Briefing

Google’s Privacy PR Move: The Information’s Tech Briefing

Photo: A sign at Google's Mountain View campus. Photo by Bloomberg.

Google made headlines with its announcement today that it is doubling down on its commitment to stop tracking people as they browse across the web, a step “towards a more privacy-first” web, as Google calls it. In many ways, though, this seems more of a PR move than anything substantive. It certainly won’t do much to guarantee anyone’s privacy.

For one thing, there was little real “news” here. The online ad giant announced the main part of this a year ago. Today’s announcement was a follow-up, confirming that a particular kind of digital ad targeting is likely to die. More to the point, the impact of Google’s new approach is much more limited than people might realize. When you’re within Google’s walls—on search, YouTube or maps—you can still be tracked. That’s true for Apple, which helped kick off this privacy push but is also building its own ad-sales business on the App Store and Apple News, as well as other ad-based platforms like Snap or Pinterest. All of those platforms will still have detailed pictures of their users’ activities, which they can deploy in selling ads.

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