Google may be preparing to both diminish the long-running practice of web tracking and bolster public opinion about privacy in its Chrome browser at the same time, based on a recent report from the Wall Street Journal. That’s because the company may be getting ready to allow users to have granular control and deeper insights into how cookies tied to their online presence are being used, according to sources said to be close to the matter.
Details about the incoming tool, reportedly resembling a dashboard and likely set to be both similar to and found among other account-related options in Account Settings, are scarce. It will summarily provide users with information about what cookies are currently stored and what those are tracking but it won’t stop with providing those metrics either.
Instead, it will also highlight exactly how users can go about stopping those cookies from doing what they’re doing. It could effectively act as a way for users in Google's Chrome browser to control exactly cookies are doing, keeping the benefits of saved online states and eliminating risks with wholesale activity tracking.
The new tool could be released within the next week if the unnamed sources are correct.
The timeframe may be the biggest clue this is real
There is a not-insignificant chance that the rumor here is inaccurate or that the timeframe for an eventual launch of the feature is off — even if Google is planning to allow users the purported level of control. The timing of the apparent leak does add some weight to the claims though.
Google's upcoming annual developer-focused conference, namely I/O 2019, kicks off on May 7 and will run through May 9. Ordinarily focused on the software side of things, there are a number of Chrome and Chrome OS-specific keynotes set to run during the event and any number of those could be tied into the announcement of a cookie-management dashboard.
In fact, such a feature isn't unlikely to show up during the main keynote at the beginning of the event. If the tool is going to be finished or close to done within the next week, there would be no better platform for its announcement.
This wouldn't be Google's only attack on tracking and cookies
Another recent clue showcasing Google's growing hostility toward tracking and cookies is the recent addition of an experimental flag setting within the browser that essentially mark stored, trackable data from sites — cookies — as only being useable via secured sites. Simultaneously, it only allows certain cookies to be accessed at all by a given site, to begin with. A second flag, building on the first, forces the browser to secure cookies from sites that haven't marked them properly.
There's no timeline for either of those settings to be turned on outside of the experimental features or version of the browser but Google has plenty of reason to want to change its image when it comes to privacy. The company has faced repeated ridicule about its own privacy practices and policies for tracking everything from user behavior or location data.
Dealing with the powerful tracking allowed by cookies would be a great starting point for mending its perceived position as just another 'big brother' tech organization since they enable widescale tracking across multiple sites.
That doesn't mean the search giant won't continue trying to track users itself since the tracking is a big part of how it fuels its main money-maker — advertising — and it could feasibly be viewed as a snub against competitors in that space. But it should be good news for end users all the same.