Path to Internet privacy and Private browsing

Internet Privacy
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Since the inception of the internet, private browsing and internet privacy was a concern which many had overlooked. But in the past decades, we have witnessed increasing calls and shout-outs for a private and secure internet. According to a media report by Dentsu – The Cookieless World, Across the Globe, 91% of the consumers are concerned about the amount of data a company can collect. In response to such wild calls by the users, Technology firms have implemented and announced restrictions around data collection and user-tracking through web-browsers and operating systems.

Some of the firms have even made Privacy and security their unique selling proposition against competitors. For Eg Apple has taken a strong stand for privacy. Neeva is a new subscription-based search Engine built around the theory of paying recurring fees in order to access a privacy-first experience.

This Article is all about Internet Privacy and Private browsing. It talks about how the path was paved towards privacy by the Technology firms and what steps were taken in order to make the internet a safe place.

Road to Internet Privacy and Private browsing

It all started in September 2017 when Apple started making noise about privacy and introduced its Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) in the Safari Web browser, limiting cross-site tracking by setting a time limit for Cookies, blocking third-party cookies, fingerprinting, and more. If you are not aware of Internet Cookies and web Tracking, Please refer to this Article.

According to Apple

The goal of ITP is to limit tracking while still enabling websites to function normally. ITP works by learning which domains are used to track a user and then immediately isolating and purging the tracking data that they attempt to store on the user’s device. The process of learning about domains uses machine learning and happens on devices, so it doesn’t share the user’s browsing history information with Apple. This on-device approach applies the same high standard to every website that is visited. And because ITP is turned on by default, there is no need to change anything in Settings or Safari preferences to receive tracking protection.”

This was the beginning of a Cookieless World followed by Apple again in June 2018 when they Introduced Intelligent Tracking 2.0 in Safari browsing, blocking companies from using cookies for retargeting and attribution purposes.

For almost 3 years Apple has been aggressively updating its algorithms to address all the issues around cross-site tracking such as fingerprinting and CNAME Cloaking, a technique used to hide the cross-site URL to make it look like a first-party URL.

Similar technology was introduced by Mozilla when in August they introduced Enhanced Tracking prevention (ETP) in the Firefox browser, blocking the most common forms of cross-site tracking. This feature was made default in their browsers by June 2019.

Later Microsoft in June 2019 also announced tracking prevention for its browser Edge as an experimental feature.

While almost all the browsers had almost dis-continued cross-site tracking unanimously, Google criticized this move and said that such unplanned moves might harm websites and business Models whose main revenue came from advertising on their websites.

Google Privacy Measures

Finally, in August 2019, Google announced Privacy Sandbox, with the intent of defining open standards for enhanced privacy. Since then Google has developed many initiatives as a part of the Privacy Sandbox such as Federated Learning of Cohorts(Flocs) for audience Management. Turtledove for targetting and remarketing and the Trust Token API to prevent Ad fraud.

Privacy Sandbox in the words of Google

The Privacy Sandbox initiative aims to create web technologies that both protect people’s privacy online and give companies and developers the tools to build thriving digital businesses to keep the web open and accessible to everyone. 

Its core purpose was to facilitate Online Advertisements and serve the advertising industry. Google is trying to build meaningful ways via which it can help digital Business owners, analytics companies, Digital publishers and etc

Federated Learning of Cohorts(Flocs) on the other hand is a technology that allows interest-based advertising on the web. Instead of observing the browsing behavior of Individuals, companies will observe the behavior of a cohort(flock of people) based on the same interest. Flocs use machine learning algorithms where they develop cohort digital models.

You’re part of a crowd. FLoC keeps you among a large group of people having similar browsing histories. This group isn’t based on who the individuals are, but rather on their collective interests so advertisers can still show relevant ads.
Your personal browsing history doesn’t leave your browser or your device, and it’s not shared with anyone, including advertisers. This means you can continue to see relevant ads and content without needing to be tracked across the web.

Then Finally, Google in January 2021, announced their support for the end of the third party cookies in Chrome Browser within Two years. Since then the announcement has been pushed to 2023.

Apple’s latest measures for Privacy

Are you an IOS user? If yes then you might have noticed this picture below. This is one of the latest features by Apple taking a strong stand for Privacy.

App Tracking Transparency Framework.

In June 2020, Apple announced their App Tracking Transparency framework, the picture above explains it; requiring Mobile applications to request permission to track the user and access the device’s advertising identifier (IDFA).

When users deny access to their IDFA. Apps can still use Apple’s SKAd Network API to measure the performance of Ad Campaigns, but less Granular results than the IDFA would permit.

May 2021, IOS 14.5 is rolled out globally, enforcing the new policies of the App tracking Transparency framework.

Conclusion

Internet Privacy is the call for the day. And the above-mentioned roadmap to internet privacy is meant as a guide for marketers worldwide. It’s also noteworthy that the impact of such changes will not be universal as there are various regional frameworks of separate states and countries, plus one should also not forget about the market share of Android and IOS operating systems, mobile penetration, browser market share, and etc. All these factors will influence privacy.

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