Google Chrome a potential target for Google's post-cookies plan

Martin Brinkmann
Sep 20, 2013
Updated • Sep 20, 2013

The most common way of tracking users on the Internet is through the use of cookies. These little data snippets are saved to user systems as soon as a website is visited. What makes cookies special is that third party scripts that run on websites can set cookies and read cookies they have set previously. This is a tracker's dream come true, especially if your script is used on a lot of websites on the Internet.

These third party cookies are easily blocked and removed. Up until now, most browsers allowed them to pass through without objection, and it was up to the user to block them in the browser.

Mozilla plans to block third party cookies by default, and once that ball starts rolling, it is likely that others may follow suit. That does not change where ads are displayed on the Internet, but it may affect which ads get displayed as companies may not use cookies anymore to profile users.

This in turn may reduce the ad unit price as less is known about the user visiting a particular website.

Cookies are not the only option companies have on the other hand, from using other resident storage on the computer to fingerprinting, there are options left that companies will use to track users for advertising purposes.

Google, the world's largest advertising company, seems to have ideas of its own how to cope with that decision. One of the scenarios as reported by the New York Times is to tie an anonymous identifier to the company's web browser Chrome.

Google would make the identifier available to companies and advertisers, but would remain in control over the system. So, instead of using a small text file that is easily deleted or even blocked, users would be tracked by their own web browser instead.

This moves user tracking to a whole new level, as the profile that is created out of this is as detailed as it gets. Where cookies relied on third party scripts, the browser itself does not have this limitation.

The big question is this: if you are using Google Chrome and Google comes along with such a system, would you continue to use Google Chrome as a web browser?

It is not clear if and how this will be implemented. Users may get control in the browser to turn off the ID, or at least recreate another random number.

According to USA Today, ideas to reset the ID every year and provide users with options to create a secondary ID are discussed at this point in time.

Closing Words

If this new form of user tracking is implemented in Chrome, would you continue to use the browser? Depending on how the change is communicated, users may not even notice the change at all.

I think that it could seriously backfire on Google if it is implemented, as it will generate negative reviews and press on the Internet.

What's your take?


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  1. ozone333 said on September 23, 2013 at 1:02 am

    Goodbye Chrome!

  2. KRS said on September 22, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    If I’m going to get ads anyway, I don’t object to advertisers matching my interests. After all, when I subscribe to the magazine The Clarinet, I expect (and want) it to carry ads about products of interest to clarinetists.

    It’s different on the web because I can’t bear animated and flashing ads. I block ads as my default. But that’s the presentation, not the content.

    I do object to Time Magazine covers (and, presumably, its site) showing serious subjects in Europe and fluff in the U.S.

    FARK has recently started using an ad-blocker blocker. Has anyone found a way around this? (The ads blink.)

    1. bunnahabhain said on September 22, 2013 at 11:06 pm

      I’ve heard of Fark, but never visited there before. Out of curiosity based on your comment, I visited with an adblocker that I wrote, and the site behaved like I expected (ads blocked, no blinking). Tried it on my Mac, using Safari & AdBlock. The ads were blocked there, but they inserted a piece of code saying that they noticed that I was blocking ads, and could I either whitelist the site, or pay to subscribe.

      I am curious, as I can’t fathom how an “ad-blocker blocker” could operate. Do you have any further observations that you can provide?

  3. yronnen said on September 20, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    Unfortunately, the users are already identified when browsing from mobile devices (which is where the growth is), so this problem related only to desktop browsing.

    In answering the question: I would stop using Chrome if this happens, but I’m quite sure that other browsers will follow.

  4. KK said on September 20, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    “People need to just let go, live life, and enjoy what comes your way.”

    Why don’t the trackers and marketers listen to that advice?
    Give up on tracking people. Just enjoy life and stop trying to make a buck off people every waking minute.

    Marketing addiction is real. The people who have a unstoppable desire to track others need to seek help for this problem. It leads to totalitarianism eventually.

    Remember, IBM built the machines that eventually tracked the Jews in Nazi Germany right?

  5. BobbyPhoenix said on September 20, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    It doesn’t really bother me if I’m tracked. I actually like having things tailored to my liking. If advertisers track me to send me specific ads that I like then I say why not. The big thing I care about are the bad out-of-control ads, but since I use an ad blocker for those the net is a better place. I think people are too worried about the word “tracking”. We are tracked everywhere. Online or not. Even just typing this comment I’m tracked by using a name and email to post this. I use Google for everything. My phone, email, browser (along with FF), searching, Google+, and whatever else you can think of. When I’m out somewhere, and I don’t use cash, I’m tracked by using a credit card. People need to just let go, live life, and enjoy what comes your way. :-)

    1. . said on September 21, 2013 at 1:05 pm

      Exactly, what the “Big Brother” wants…

  6. Martin said on September 20, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    I’ve already ditched the Google search engine and moved to in light of the PRISM scandal, and am currently investigating ways of getting off gmail. Not because I have anything to hide, it’s just the principle. As of reading this article, I’m removing the Chrome browser too. Google have done their dash with me, and I’ll be glad to distance myself from them completely, if that’s even possible. I’m sure traces of me, if not complete backups of me, will be available to prying eyes for years to come. But better late than never is the way I’m thinking.

    Thanks for the article.

  7. Dan said on September 20, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    There are already extensions that can edit the http header requests in Chrome, like for instance changing the user agent. I’m sure they can be retooled to stop the browser from sharing the ID. Otherwise there are privacy-enhanced versions of Chrome such as Iron Browser or Epic Browser that will definitely not turn on the feature. I use Opera Next and I would like to believe that they would also not include it.

    I have given up on Gecko, Presto, and Trident-based browsers. For better or worse I will be consumng the web with Blink/Webkit/Khtml browsers.

  8. Prav said on September 20, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    I hope these changes are not planned for chromium as well.

    1. Zero said on September 21, 2013 at 11:15 pm

      These changes are already part of chromium.

  9. Uhtred said on September 20, 2013 at 11:07 am

    The big question is this: if you are using Google Chrome and Google comes along with such a system, would you continue to use Google Chrome as a web browser?

    Answer: No

    However, if there was a requirement to access a service/site only through google, then yes, but only for that specific service … and use alternate browser for everything else

  10. Nebulus said on September 20, 2013 at 10:26 am

    I stayed away from Chrome browser anyway, as a part of my plan to keep the interactions with Google to a minimum. If what they plan about an ID tied to Chrome really happens, then it will be a confirmation that my decision was correct.

  11. yoav said on September 20, 2013 at 9:44 am

    Google would probably lose any goodwill it has left from its users. This would finalize Google’s transformation from “Do no evil” to “Just as evil as M$” and perhaps even worse than that.

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