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This article was published on May 31, 2021

Google says it won’t build backdoors into its Privacy Sandbox for gathering user data

Will it though?

Google says it won’t build backdoors into its Privacy Sandbox for gathering user data
Ivan Mehta
Story by

Ivan Mehta

Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh." Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh."

Google plans to ditch third-party cookies on Chrome next year — just like Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox browser has done.

To replace the cookies system, the company introduced a new product called Privacy Sandbox that will let advertisers gather some amount of data without compromising users’ data integrity.

Last week, the company has assured that it won’t build any backdoors to this sandbox for its own apps. Jerry Dischler, the company’s VP for Ads, said at a virtual marketing event that the company’s own app won’t take any shortcuts:

We’ll be using these APIs for our own ads and measurement products just like everyone else, and we will not build any backdoors for ourselves.

It’s promising to hear this, but ad-makers have voiced concerns in the past that this new format will force them to adapt to this standard because of Google’s hold on the digital ad industry. Plus, the Big G could design it in a way that its own apps could benefit from gathering data — even if they don’t use any backdoors.

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The company is already testing Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) — the cookie replacement that’s part of the Privacy Sandbox — on Chrome. 

A researcher from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has already called FLoC a “breach of user trust.” Plus, the UKs’ Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has opened up an investigation looking into the privacy implications of this new technique. It won’t be easy for Google to convince all parties involved when this rolls out officially.  

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