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Google’s new privacy sandbox proposals – how they will affect your marketing efforts

5 min read

Back to Insight

5 min read

Google’s new privacy sandbox proposals – how they will affect your marketing efforts

Author: Jane
Posted in Data & AI on 13th July 2021 9:00 am

Back in August, Google revealed its privacy initiative known as Privacy Sandbox API over a blog post. The announcement was naturally greeted with a lot of skepticism. The skeptics stated that Google is the world’s most notable name when it comes to vague user tracking. Numerous critics of the initiative such as the ANA or Association of National Advertiser and the EFF or Electronic Frontier Foundation, have stated that Google’s goals seemed to focus on realigning the targeted ads industry towards its own technologies instead of its claim which is to deal with privacy concerns of users.

One such contention is Google’s intention to block third party cookies. This move is deemed as a step back for consumer privacy. It appears that Google heard this criticism and decided to seemingly change gears. This proposal was recently updated to state that it now aims to do away with third-party cookies on its browser in 1 year. The search engine giant has also provided what it calls a roadmap which protects the targeted advert industry, whilst eradicating the principal incursions user privacy have undergone in today’s world.

What does the Privacy Sandbox contain?

Google’s principal strategy when it first announced this initiative was to ensure cookies became more configurable and transparent for Chrome end users. It also wanted to remove the alternative of browser fingerprinting. Google’s goal now has been shifted to completely eradicating third party cookies and causing advertisers to utilise an API call to its Privacy Sandbox in order to receive targeted information. This aim is for the Privacy Sandbox to become an aggregator of targeted ad data without having it linked to the identity of the individual user. This basically means that Privacy Sandbox will function as a go-between for advertisers searching for ad targeting data.

While Google has yet to disclose what the full strategy entails, a Google spokesperson has offered a vague outline of how the search engine giant aims to offer the information in the Privacy Sandbox to advertisers in a manner that doesn’t use cookies and still protects the privacy of the individual user.

What exactly is wrong with third-party cookies?

These cookies are utilised by digital marketing strategies to record a user’s activity while they browse the internet. It is in hopes that target specific adverts that fit their user’s demonstrated preference can be delivered later. For instance, if you head over to an online game store, browsing their collection of ps5 games, you are likely to see video game-related adverts showing on other websites.

Therein lies the issues with third-party cookies. They are an accumulation of personal data. When these cookies are gathered over some time, they collect a large amount of personal information which could then be coalesced into excruciatingly detailed databases. Apart from being a massive invasion of user privacy, such databases have the potential of being a security risk should they be leaked or hacked by nefarious agents. This danger is down to the fact that they offer a trove of information which can be useful to those looking to steal identities or carry out other impersonation schemes.

Another possibility is that government agencies can track a person’s connections and movements. Due to ever-increasing public awareness as well as a burgeoning desire of consumers to withdraw from this form of tracking, third party cookie alternatives are being developed.

What is Google doing in the meantime?

Google over the course of 2020 tested out a click-based conversion tool which was tracked by its browser, Chrome, instead of a cookie. A conversion value is then registered back to an advertising company without any personally identifiable details being included.

Google also aims to test further down the line, advert technology ideas which provide interest-based choices without using third party cookies. There have been suggestions of sandbox proposals where Chrome would create a setlist of consumers that frequently use certain site combinations, as well as those that meet a particular number of sites on a list deemed important to a unique advertising query.

The way around divulging information would have users issues cryptographically protected tokens as verification and identification of an actual person. Google is also considering applying its machine learning resources to the Chrome internet browser.

How all this affects advertisers and marketers?

Unsurprisingly, advertisers, publishers and marketing agencies are worried that the alterations to the current cookie structure could result in ad revenue drop. While the Privacy Sandbox proposal aims to balance effective ad targeting with user privacy, it remains to be seen if these opposite interest groups can be uniformly and effectively served.

Marketers that run targeted adverts on non-Google owned sites using Google’s Marketing Platform will also be impacted by alterations caused by Privacy Sandbox. It is possible that this policy change could also affect the ability to effectively track consumer behaviour using Google Analytics.

Considering Google aims to utilise its own first-party cookies outside of its Privacy Sandbox in the same vein, it doesn’t seem like ad campaigns run on YouTube or Google’s own search engine would be affected.

That being said, it might be possible for the Privacy Sandbox to provide opportunities for publishers and ad agencies that have already collated a trove of consumer data.


All this information and Google’s motivations might stem from the fact that personal data privacy has become a major talking point not only online but in national assemblies. Many nations are beginning to draft strong personal information privacy legislation and Google was recently fined $ 170 million by the FTC for running afoul of COPPA or Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act standards as a result of it tracking cookies.

Data protection agencies in Europe are also reviewing their tracking protocols to ensure they do not run afoul of the GDPR. Another motivation could well be the pressure from rival browsers like Firefox and Safari, two browsers that have included aggressive measures to stop the collation of third party cookies.

If you need help understanding data collection, or how you can safely manage it in your business then drop us a line.

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