Google to Stop Ad Sales Based on Users’ Browsing History

Tech giant says it will end third-party cookies and “any technology used for tracking individual people as they browse the web”

Google on Wednesday said it will stop selling ads based on tracking specific users from website to website — a major decision from the world’s biggest digital advertiser that will surely impact the entire industry moving forward.

The company, in a blog post Wednesday, reiterated that it plans to stop using third-party cookies to craft unique user profiles starting next year. On top of that, Google said Wednesday it will not build or use new tools to better track users across the web.

“Keeping the internet open and accessible for everyone requires all of us to do more to protect privacy — and that means an end to not only third-party cookies, but also any technology used for tracking individual people as they browse the web,” said David Temkin, Google’s director of product management for ads, privacy and trust said in the blog post.  “We remain committed to preserving a vibrant and open ecosystem where people can access a broad range of ad-supported content with confidence that their privacy and choices are respected.”

One important point to note, however, is that Google’s announcement only applies to web surfing and doesn’t impact mobile apps.

Google, as usual, dominated the online ad space last year, accounting for 52% of the $292 billion global market, according to The Wall Street Journal. Looking ahead, the company acknowledged its competitors may offer a different “level” of unique user tracking, but that its changes were necessary to “meet rising consumer expectations for privacy”; Temkin also said the old model will not “stand up to rapidly evolving regulatory restrictions,” making it an unsustainable “long term investment.”

The changes come as Google is facing two major antitrust battles. Nearly 40 states sued the tech giant in December, claiming it rigs its search results to highlight its own products at the expense of competitors. This harms consumers, the states claim, because they end up missing out on the best deals possible. That lawsuit came just months after the Justice Department filed its own antitrust lawsuit against Google, claiming the company’s dominance over online search has blocked competitors from gaining enough users to scale.

Google’s stock was down 0.9% about 90 minutes into trading on Wednesday, dropping to $2,046.34 per share.