What the Privacy Battle Upending the Internet Means for You

Get ready for more random ads online, higher prices and subscriptions galore. But your privacy concerns may still not fade.

 

Google has plans for its Chrome web browser to block tracking cookies in 2023 in favor of a new system that lets advertisers target us with ads.
Credit…John Locher/Associated Press

Brian X. Chen and 

The internet is changing, including how much we pay for content and the ads and brands we see.

That’s because Apple and Google, two hugely influential tech companies, are rolling out privacy protections that hinder marketers from gaining access to our data when they show us ads. The changes have major repercussions for online advertising, which are a business foundation for the free apps and websites that many of us use, like Facebook, TikTok and the Weather Channel. Those sites and apps now have to come up with new ways to show ads or make money.

Here’s what that means for you.

For decades, advertisers relied on “cookies,” pieces of code planted in web browsers that can follow our personal web browsing to track us online and show us relevant ads. When smartphones came along, marketers also used trackers inside mobile apps to follow people across apps and websites.

These advertising technologies became incredibly potent and effective — if you shopped for shoes, shoe ads would follow you around the internet — but with major downsides. It enabled marketers to build hyper-realistic profiles of us that were hardly anonymous. It also opened doors for bad actors to steal people’s data and spread misinformation.

Widespread concern over online privacy in recent years started an industry wide discussion about what to do about this tracking. Apple and Google have stepped in with different solutions.

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