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Google Counters Apple, Firefox With a Plan for Online Privacy

Gerrit De Vynck

(Bloomberg) -- Google outlined a plan to try and make surfing the web more private while still allowing enough targeted advertising to keep publishers -- and itself -- in business.

Google’s suggestions include cryptographic tokens users can amass showing they are trustworthy, using artificial intelligence to show people relevant ads based on minimal information and storing personally-identifiable data on someone’s device rather than in their browser.

The internet giant said it will propose the changes for debate before the organizations that set common rules for the Internet. That means Google wants the entire web to adopt the new rules, instead of just installing them on its own Chrome browser. The move shows Google is being proactive in making sure its ideas for how the web should work are the ones that win out in the future.

The changes would surely improve privacy, but Google is also pushing back against privacy initiatives started by Mozilla Corp.’s Firefox and Apple Inc.’s Safari browsers that it says are too heavy-handed. Those browsers have started blocking cookies -- little bits of code that lodge in people’s browsers and follow them around the web helping advertisers place valuable, targeted ads.

Google doesn’t want cookies to go away, because it says they help publishers make money from their content and keeps the web vibrant. Of course, they also help Google, which is the largest and most profitable online advertising company in the world.

Changes to internet standards, the common rules that allow different websites to work on different browsers, can take years. But Google often leads the way by simply updating Chrome and forcing the rest of the web to adapt, something it can do because its browser is used by around 70% of internet users worldwide.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gerrit De Vynck in New York at gdevynck@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jillian Ward at jward56@bloomberg.net, Andrew Martin

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