Do the latest moves from Google threaten our privacy?

Two announcements from Google, both seem reasonable under the circumstances, both have privacy implications, however.

 

We all agree; these are exceptional times. They call for exceptional measures — as long as they are reversed when things go back to normal.

 

Google itself has delayed an update to Chrome concerning third party cookies. Meanwhile it has confirmed that it is tracking us — anonymously.

 

The Chrome update was slated for February this year and invoices changes to to SameSite cookie labelling. This applies to the labelling of third party cookies that can be used on multiple websites.

 

The purpose of the change was to tighten up on privacy and security. Some even suggested it was a step towards a so called cookie apocalypse. We can say that the change has created quite the headache for companies, including suppliers of essential services during the pandemic including online grocers and healthcare companies. 

 

So Google is delaying the change, even reversing it to an extent, but only, we are told, during the Covid-19 crisis.

 

Meanwhile, the company has revealed that it is tracking our movements so as to create a picture of how busy certain places are during the pandemic such as museums, beaches and shopping centres.

 

Don’t worry we are told, the data will be anonymous. 

 

Anonymous data has a habit of not staying anonymous for long, and you can tell a lot about an individual from their movements, even if you are not told who they are. So let’s hope this is truly anonymous. The company says it is including randomised data to disguise user’s individual history. 

 

Of course, during the lockdown, the data should reveal that very few people visit a museum. Indeed, if they are closed it is tempting to ask why anyone might want to go to one.

Image credit

 


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