Google’s AdID Could Crush Cookies

Google reportedly is developing its own anonymous identifier for advertising, AdID, that will replace third-party cookies as a way for advertisers to track consumers’ online browsing activity.

AdID will give consumers more privacy and control over their Web browsing, an anonymous source at Google told USA Today last week.

“We believe that technological enhancements can improve users’ security while ensuring the Web remains economically viable,” Google spokesperson Nadja Blagojevic told the E-Commerce Times, echoing Google’s party line on this issue. “We and others have a number of concepts in this area, but they’re all at very early stages.”

Google has been reaching out to the ad industry, government bodies and consumer groups to discuss the idea, according to the USA Today report.

Google’s Cookie-Muncher

Google’s AdID apparently will let users limit ad tracking through browser settings. It may be automatically reset by the browser every year.

Users will be able to create a secondary AdID for private online browsing sessions. Advertisers will get access to these AdIDs if they adhere to the terms of the program, but users may be able to change the list of approved advertisers through controls in the browser.

“Ad agencies will hate this, since the objectivity that comes with some third-party tracking will no longer be available to them in some instances,” Larry Chiagouris, a professor of marketing at Pace University, told the E-Commerce Times. “They will not want to put all of their tracking eggs in Google’s basket.”

Limping Along in Apple’s Wake

Apple introduced its own version of AdID in iOS 6 and implemented in iOS 6.1.

Apple’s AdID ensures that a user’s personal identification is not tied to the device identifier. Users can turn off ad tracking, in which case they would be served with any ads rather than targeted ads.

However, Google’s AdID might give rise to more angst among advertisers because “Apple is not a media vehicle the way Google is, and Apple has not threatened to compete with agencies the way Google has in the past,” Chiagouris pointed out.

The Google AdID Buzz

There is some concern that Google’s development of its own AdID could give it too much control over advertisers.

“I think it’s safe to say there are concerns within the ad industry about the concentration of marketing power certain companies have, and Google is one of them,” remarked Alan Chapell, president of Chapell Associates.

That fear might not be unfounded — Adidas canceled a US$10 million Apple iAd campaign back in 2010, reportedly because the late Steve Jobs tried to exert too much control over the ads.

Why Google Might Want Its Own AdID

Google is hinting that its AdID would enhance users’ security and privacy, but perhaps its plans are really more closely tied to business.

“I think Google’s recognizing that cookies currently don’t work everywhere — particularly in mobile devices — and they’re also recognizing that advertisers are increasingly looking for cross-device campaigns and marketing,” Chappell told the E-Commerce Times.

“They’re also recognizing that Mozilla, IE and Safari are hostile to third-party cookies,” Chappell said. “I think this [AdID program] is, in part, to make sure they’re going to be able to compete.”

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