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Google reportedly building in-house ad-tracking tool called 'AdID'

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Google New York Chelsea Office (STOCK)
Google New York Chelsea Office (STOCK)

Google is reportedly developing its own system of tracking our activity online. According to a report from USA Today, Google is building an identification method for advertisers, called AdID, that would replace third-party HTTP cookies. An unnamed source tells the newspaper that AdID data would be shared with advertisers and online ad-sales networks that agree to a Google-defined set of guidelines and privacy controls.

So far, Google hasn't spoken publicly about AdID in particular, but the company tells The Verge in an emailed statement that it's working on improving online Google built, Google controlled tracking systems. "We believe that technological enhancements can improve users' security while ensuring the web remains economically viable," Google says. "We and others have a number of concepts in this area, but they’re all at very early stages." USA Today says that the company is moving forward with AdID and plans on reaching out to the advertising industry, government regulators, and consumer groups over the next few weeks and months.

AdID will allow those surfing the web to limit ad tracking and even block specific tracking firms by way of new browser settings, USA Today says. However, Google's system may also have the ability to reset its browser settings every year, the report says. The company is also considering giving users the ability to create multiple AdID profiles for incognito browsing sessions that they'll want to keep even more private that usual, the report says.

Potential for better privacy controls

The ability to tune tracking settings with such granularity, rather than simply turning it on or off, could be meaningful for consumers. For years, the World Wide Web Consortium has been working to standardize Do Not Track technologies as browsers and plugins have offered a widely varying level of privacy controls. That effort, however, is looking increasingly bleak and it seems that Google is interested in developing its own tracking system, with its own privacy options, rather than simply trying to work with the HTTP cookie-based status quo.

The reported AdID effort will likely face scrutiny from privacy advocates and government agencies given Google's massive power in the online advertising space. Google's Chrome currently accounts for about 42 percent of the browser market, and as USA Today notes, the company also owns about one third of worldwide online ad revenue. If Google is able to successfully build AdID into Chrome alone, it would automatically control nearly half of the market for ad identifiers and tracking.