Meeting consumer needs for a privacy-first future

Melanie Silva / August 2019

I’ve worked at Google for 12 years of its 20-year history. And a big part of my job has been to ensure that everyone, from partners and advertisers to consumers, benefit from the opportunity that digital technology creates.

Ads play a major role in sustaining the free and open web. Ads underwrite the great content and services. They support a universe of creators and other partners. And they enable marketers of all types and sizes to connect with people interested in what they have to offer.

However, expectations are changing, and people rightly want to know more about how their information is used and shared, and yet we all define privacy in our own ways. Privacy is personal, which makes it even more vital for companies to give clear, individual choices around how their data is used. If consumers start to lose trust in how their personal data is being handled, the whole ecosystem falls apart.

We are seeing this change play out in how people interact with Google. For instance, there’s “My Activity,” which is a place where users can go to manage information that’s saved to their Google Account, like their search and browsing history. Since 2016, search interest for this phrase has increased by more than a thousand percent worldwide.1 Last year, globally people made more than 2.5 billion visits to their Google Account pages, where they can view or adjust how their ads are personalised.2

Icon image: An open laptop with blue screen and a yellow person icon. Stat: People made more than 2.5 billion visits to their Google Account pages last year.

That’s why it’s critical for all of us in the ads ecosystem to be focused on improving trust and user experiences. People prefer ads that are relevant, but only if those ads meet users’ expectations in three key areas:

  • Transparency. People should be able to easily see how their data is being used for ads and beyond, including what data is collected and who’s collecting it.
  • Choice. People’s choices about how ads are tailored to them should be respected, and any attempts to bypass those choices should be prevented.
  • Control. People should have control over the data used to tailor their ads, including who has access to it, how long it’s stored, and how it’s used.

Those are the ideas behind some important steps that we recently announced on Chrome. To bring these principles to life for our users, we’ve begun:

  • Building new tools that give people more transparency into the data used to personalise ads and the companies involved in the process
  • Placing new restrictions on fingerprinting to ensure that when users opt to block third-party tracking on Chrome, that choice is respected
  • Offering improved controls for users to block or clear third-party cookies in Chrome without degrading their browsing experience.

But to create experiences that are truly privacy-forward for users, we need to work together. Here are some steps that marketers can take:

  • Cultivate direct relationships with users: This means being clear about the data you collect and why, so make sure your privacy policies are up-to-date, and investing in first-party data which gives you a more nuanced opportunity to understand and respect privacy preferences. This lets you measure your site and marketing activity in a way that’s clear and straightforward to visitors.
  • Choose partners who can help you respect user preferences: These days, each ad impression can have a different set of conditions that you’ll need to consider, such as someone’s consent choices or which browser a person is using. In cases when people have opted out of personalised ads or when cookies are constrained, you’ll just have less data to work with. In such cases, you’ll need to work with partners who have the expertise to help you do more with less data.
  • Manage customer data and discover insights in a privacy-safe way: Cloud technology has inherent privacy and security advantages when it comes to analysing large data sets, such as encrypting all data by default and employing strong user access controls. These capabilities are built into solutions like Ads Data Hub so that you can protect user privacy while discovering insights.

Consumer expectations continue to evolve around privacy. That’s why Google is taking steps to ensure that people feel confident that their privacy is being protected — and why we’re working to help marketers find privacy-safe ways to continue to reach your audiences and measure results accurately.

This shift is a significant opportunity to create a better, more sustainable online advertising ecosystem that works for everyone.

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