The move could help Google improve its privacy image – while at the same time giving it an advantage over rivals in the online ad market
Google is planning to roll out a feature in its Chrome browser that makes it easier for users to manage tracking cookies, including limiting them, according to a report.
The move would be a major step for Google, which is itself the dominant player in online advertising.
The dashboard-like feature is intended to respond to popular concern around tracking practices, while continuing to enable Google itself to gather data on users for advertising purposes, The Wall Street Journal reported.
It principally targets tracking code placed in browsers by third parties, and as such could help Google press its advantage against rivals in the online advertising market.
Google controls the lion’s share of online advertising, at nearly one-third, compared with Facebook’s 20 percent, according to eMarketer.
Google is planning to roll out the feature after six years of internal debate, the Journal’s sources said, and it could appear as soon as this week.
The company reportedly stepped up its anti-tracking plans following the scandal last year around the misuse of Facebook user data by Cambridge Analytica.
Tracking cookies are placed by some websites in a user’s browser, and then report back to the original company’s servers giving a detailed account of the user’s browsing habits.
The browsing data allows companies to build up profiles on users that can then be analysed and sold to advertisers for targeting purposes.
Web tracking has been controversial for years, but browser makers have taken stronger action to limit it in the wake of last year’s Facebook data scandal.
Beginning in version 65, released earlier this year, the Firefox browser includes anti-tracking features that are switched on by default, and Apple added similar measures to its Safari browser after announcing them in February.
An earlier scheme known as Do Not Track (DNT) was intended to signal a user’s preference not to be tracked by third parties, but relied on companies voluntarily abiding by the user’s choice.
Apple removed the Do Not Track feature from Safari earlier this year, saying it served no purpose and could actually be used to help “fingerprint” individual users’ browsers for tracking purposes.