The cookies crumble: how Google is changing the way we are tracked by advertisers

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Modern tech companies commodify “the stuff of human nature”, the social psychologist Shoshana Zuboff wrote in her 2019 bestseller The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. If that’s the case, then website cookies — lines of computer code that track your behaviour online — are a big part of how they do it. Which made it all the more intriguing when Google promised earlier this year to phase out third-party cookies on its popular Chrome browser. This week it announced it was trialling an alternative system.

here the titans of 20th century industry relied on raw materials such as oil, Silicon Valley giants have built much of their fortunes on behavioural data. Cookies are stored on your device when you visit websites and enable internet advertising to be highly targeted to your tastes, or what it calculates are your tastes. They are the reason you will frequently see online adverts for things you have just been browsing. The practice raises questions about the privacy implications of companies ‘following’ people as they use the web.

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