By Bennett Cyphers, EFF, August 2019
Last week, Google announced a plan to “build a more private web.” The announcement post was, frankly, a mess. The company that tracks user behavior on over ⅔ of the web said that “Privacy is paramount to us, in everything we do.”
Google not only doubled down on its commitment to targeted advertising, but also made the laughable claim that blocking third-party cookies — by far the most common tracking technology on the Web, and Google’s tracking method of choice — will hurt user privacy. By taking away the tools that make tracking easy, it contended, developers like Apple and Mozilla will force trackers to resort to “opaque techniques” like fingerprinting. Of course, lost in that argument is the fact that the makers of Safari and Firefox have shown serious commitments to shutting down fingerprinting, and both browsers have made real progress in that direction. Furthermore, a key part of the Privacy Sandbox proposals is Chrome’s own (belated) plan to stop fingerprinting.
But hidden behind the false equivalencies and privacy gaslighting are a set of real technical proposals. Some are genuinely good ideas. Others could be unmitigated privacy disasters. This post will look at the specific proposals under Google’s new “Privacy Sandbox” umbrella and talk about what they would mean for the future of the web.
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