Matt Brittin
Matt Brittin
A view from Matt Brittin

Advertisers, don't be alarmed but consumers want more control over their data

Respecting consumer privacy and security can provide advertisers with opportunities to better engage.

I first experienced the connected world in a computer lab in Cambridge in 1989, as a student. It was the same year Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web and, at the time, you could only connect with people in the same room.

I could never have imagined then how the tool in front of me would make an impact on society – not least through a global pandemic. We were at a unique point in history then, and we’re at another now.

As Europe begins to reopen, we are yet to fully understand what societal shifts will come from the Covid-era. It’s clear that the world has changed rapidly, with our use of technology leaping forward five to 10 years in as many months.

More than half the world is now online, with the remainder catching up fast. Even my parents, who are nearly 90, moved their social lives, exercise routines, shopping and viewing online. The web has been a lifeline for so many.

For those of us who play a role in shaping the internet, with this "techceleration" comes both opportunity and responsibility. It’s essential that we earn the trust of our users – going beyond being easy to use and helpful to being respectful and responsible.

People’s privacy online is more important than ever – and the rules of the road are changing. For years, the advertising industry assumed that people would be willing to exchange personal data for free access to quality content, allowing us to show them relevant ads. But today, with more people managing every aspect of their lives online, users want assurance that the bargain is working in their favour.

Many feel it is not. According to research by Google and Euroconsumers last year, more than two-thirds of online users in Europe think the amount of personal data collected online makes it difficult to protect their privacy. Only one in five feels in control of what personal data is collected. 

Today, we’re releasing new research with Ipsos that tells an interesting story. People tell us they are happy to share some data, as long as they can understand and control how it’s being used, and can see clear benefits to doing so. When given that, users respond with increased trust: making them three times more likely to react positively to advertising, and twice as likely to find it relevant.

The old approach of serving ads based on third-party cookies is on its way out. This change isn’t trivial – it requires a profound shift in the way the world approaches online marketing — but it is possible. More than that, in light of emerging regulations and platform restrictions, it will become essential. The good news is that we’re here to help.

Using privacy-preserving technologies, we’re helping thousands of businesses to fill reporting gaps and understand people’s needs, without sacrificing user privacy. Companies like E.ON, one of the biggest electricity and gas suppliers in Europe, have used tools such as Global Site Tag and Google Analytics to preserve user privacy, in turn saving nine hours a week on performance analysis, and responding five times faster to customer insights. 

We’ve been listening to the industry along the way. Last year we announced that Chrome won’t support third-party cookies. You told us you needed more time to prepare, so Chrome extended the deadline until 2023. You told us you needed a roadmap, so Chrome is sharing promising technologies in the Privacy Sandbox that offer sustainable solutions for digital advertising.

Lastly, you asked what tools will be available, so we built tools such as Global Site Tag, Consent Mode, and Google Analytics 4, to make sure measurement and attribution continue to work for you.

Google has always believed in privacy by design. We build tools and technology so that you can use them, innovate on them, and seize the business opportunities of the future. Not with legacy technologies of the 1990s, like third-party cookies, but with tools that are purpose-built to create more opportunity for tomorrow.

By focusing together on protecting what matters to people, we can build a privacy safe web for everyone  where users are informed and in control, publishers can fund quality content built on user relationships with loyalty and trust, and advertisers have the precision and accountability to achieve great results.

There’s a big opportunity for digital technology to help us recover and thrive, becoming more inclusive, faster, and better than before by using tools that are open and affordable. Those of us who shape the digital world need to work together to put privacy front and centre. We’re here to work with you to do just that.

Matt Brittin is president of Google's EMEA business and operations