back to article Google's second stab at preserving both privacy and ad revenue draws fire

Last month, Google withdrew a poorly received web proposal for ad management called PIGIN, short for Private Interest Groups, Including Noise, and replaced it with a better branded spec called TURTLEDOVE. Though more appealingly named, the sequel, which stands for Two Uncorrelated Requests, Then Locally-Executed Decision On …

  1. jake Silver badge

    One word.

    Mouthwatering.

    (If you've ever been seen pigin' out on turtledove pie, you'll understand.)

  2. jonathan keith Silver badge

    Squaring the circle

    No matter how much Google throws at this, the simple fact is that User Profiling and User Privacy are mutually exclusive.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Squaring the circle

      Only if you see privacy as an absolute, all-or-nothing quality.

      I don't generally walk about naked in public, but there are people who I'm OK with seeing me that way. (E.g. my family, or any doctor I happen to be consulting.) "Privacy" includes the option to reveal private things to select people, on the understanding that they won't be more widely shared.

      If Google can insinuate itself onto that list of "select people" - if not for you, then at least for a significant number of its users - then it can totally square that circle.

      1. RyokuMas Silver badge
        Stop

        Re: Squaring the circle

        "... any doctor I happen to be consulting."

        In that case you might as well have let Google see you naked...

        Google-bashing aside, this is exactly why this all-or-nothing mentality exists towards privacy - for years the web giants have been grabbing every bit of data they can, often regardless of the morality of doing so, and trying to claim it was an accident/mistake when caught.

        All-or-nothing privacy is years of privacy abuse coming home to roost - personally, I trust Google - or Facebook, or any of the other "big web" companies - with my data about as far as I'd trust Rolf Harris to babysit my kids.

        1. veti Silver badge

          Re: Squaring the circle

          So, your policy is not to let doctors see you naked? Good luck with that.

          Meanwhile, there really is a very significant difference between Google and Facebook. Google takes your private information, with or without your consent, and keeps it to itself. There has never been a credible report of their bulk data being leaked or sold to a third party.

          (There's a good reason for that. Their business model involves managing the flow of information between me and their customers. If their customers could get hold of the information Google has about me, they wouldn't need Google any more, they could contact me directly.)

          Facebook, on the other hand...

          And that's why I personally am OK with sharing many things with Google.

          1. P. Lee

            Re: Squaring the circle

            Does your doctor follow you into every shop you visit and try to flog you cream for an embarrassing condition which you may not even have?

            We have strict legal, commercial and social restrictions for those entrusted with privacy offline. Big Tech? Not so much.

            The blocker stays on.

      2. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Squaring the circle

        > I don't generally walk about naked in public, but there are people who I'm OK with seeing me that way.

        Right -- the people you've given permission to see you naked.

        > If Google can insinuate itself onto that list of "select people" - if not for you, then at least for a significant number of its users - then it can totally square that circle.

        If someone has not given Google their informed consent, then Google has not squared that circle even if a significant number of its users have given such consent. Google is still being abusive to those who haven't.

  3. JohnFen Silver badge

    No no no

    > the system depends on Web Bundles (websites packaged as a file),

    "Web bundles" are an absolutely terrible idea that needs to die. That they may be used in order to further erode privacy makes them even worse.

    > that new APIs are "a necessary part of the broader goal of stopping tracking on the web."

    No, they're not. This is a bit of a disingenuous argument. They may be a necessary part of finding a way for Google to be able to continue doing business as usual while reducing tracking, but they're certainly not necessary to top tracking.

    > He maintains that the client-side JavaScript from advertisers would not be allowed to touch the surrounding page or network.

    Perhaps. But can that JS phone home? Can it collect data (such as for fingerprinting purposes)?

    > "I think something like TURTLEDOVE is feasible, and is necessary for dropping 3p cookies without trashing web sites' ads revenue,"

    That may be the case -- Google seems to be trying to drop third party cookies while replacing the functionality of third party cookies -- which pretty much makes dropping those cookies pointless. Personally, I couldn't care less if web sites get their revenue trashed because they're reliant on this sort of advertising. This sort of advertising is an attack on users, and sites shouldn't be able to benefit from it. Of course, we all know that by "sites", what Google means is "Google".

    I've been following what the online marketing press and sites have been saying about all of this, and it's getting even more frightening and antagonistic. What they're talking about now is coopting sites that require users to log in with accounts, so that the marketers can make use of that first-party data themselves. What this means is that those of us who are concerned about privacy need to stop having accounts on such websites.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is this Michael Kleber sane ?

    Stopping tracking on the web by making me doing all the tracking so that ad companies just come into my browser to collect the PII ? Like bees going from flower to flower ? What a jerk! This shows the considera... no, the contempt Google has towards people using their browser. And the guts they have to tell the world they're doing it for our privacy.

  5. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  6. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Birdbrain

    Many websites will become inaccessible when they require this feature but it has been disabled in the client. Much like the malware infested sites demanding that I disable my ad-blocker, I won't miss them.

  7. Sven Coenye
    Coat

    PIGIN, TURTLEDOVE, ...

    Is it me, or are these already the NSA exploit names?

    I was never here. This post never happened. (Oh, wait...)

  8. Tromos
    Joke

    Acronym too long and contrived

    Why not shorten it to:

    Two Uncorrelated Requests, Decision

  9. Scott Marshall
    Trollface

    PIGIN / TURTLEDOVE?

    Coo blimey!

    More like PIGIN-A-POKE and TOTALDOUCHE in my (not so) humble opinion!

    Of course, it's a bAD, dAD joke!

    After this, will they rename "doubleclick" to "doublecluck"?

  10. revenant Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    It's different, I suppose

    I guess it is an improvement on being watched everywhere you go by those around you, but instead you replace that public exposure by inviting your very own stalker to document your habits.

    Nope, I'm not falling for that one.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just make behaviouraĺ marketing simply WORK

    I'm just about sick to my shitter of getting ads for stuff I've just bought, stuff I've just looked at and decided I dont want and stuff thats "trending".

    If thats all behavioural marketing can do Google can shove it up its evil little arse.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Just make behaviouraĺ marketing simply WORK

      "I'm just about sick to my shitter of getting ads."

      FTFY.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just make behaviouraĺ marketing simply WORK

      I recently got engaged, which meant for a while I was looking at diamond rings. I then bought a ring. Still getting only ads about buying more diamond rings.

      It made it extremely subtle what I was up to, every time my lady friend would glance at my computer there would be an ad for engagement rings up on the screen. Thanks google!

  12. Headley_Grange Silver badge

    Paywall

    Why not put the data behind a paywall and let the advertisers access it by paying for it. The user can decide how much they pay (per visit) and the advertisers can decide if it's worth it.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Paywall

      I like the idea, but it will be a cold day in Hell before Google agrees to implement that.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google lie and mislead

    there's no other way to put it, if the bulk of their revenue comes from ads, there's NO (...) WAY they'd have ANY interest in making LESS profit from ads, no matter how much they polish the turd. It's just a PR stunt (cuddly 1000lb gorilla with a PRIVACY!! FRIENDLY!!! grin). And to undercut any remnants of ad competition.

  14. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    THE place where people get content from millions of sites without paying

    But most of those sites, surely, are those which have been set up purely for the purpose of monetising their visitors?

    Where people are already trying to buy something (Amazon, eBay, online shops in general) you don't see adverts; you're already looking for something they want.

    Where manufacturers run their own web sites - be it electronics makers, knitting wool providers, or anything in between - you don't see other advertisers (though they may advertise other things in their product line, and why not? It's their site.)

    Where people with a special interest - lacemaking to analogue photography to classic cars to alien conspiracies - get together (or even on their own) and pay their own hosting to share their interests their primary purpose should be just that, not hanging advertising off it.

    What's left? News? I'm happy to pay for that, given a suitable subscription model (hello, El Reg, where's your twenty quid a year option?). Clickbait sites? They exist *only* to monetise advertising. Social media? Same thing. Porn sites, ditto - it's another guaranteed clickbait selling punters to advertisers.

    And the whole 'oh, puhlease don't turn our adverts off with your nasty blocker?' argument? It's rubbish. Whether I block or not, I'm permanently paying the cost of that advertising as a hidden tax in every single thing I buy. I may not be able to opt out of paying someone's advertising budget but I'll do my damnedest to avoid wasting my time with the crap.

    Really, how many people have gone out and bought a product based on seeing an advert, when they haven't already been actively seeking that product?

    1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      Re: THE place where people get content from millions of sites without paying

      @Neil: This made me think about why I don't like the current model. In the bad old days I bought all sorts of magazines from Everyday Electronics to Q and some that might have had more pictures than writing. They all contained ads for stuff I didn't want, I'd just bought or plain didn't apply to me, but the only ads which really annoyed me were the inserts in mags and the scratch-n-sniff pages made of stiff card which made the mag a pain to read. I never considered that by paying £3 for a magazine that I shouldn't see adverts too and I don't remember ever getting really annoyed by turning the page and seeing a full-page advert for something.

      I guess the problem today is that nearly all the web advertising is the equivalent of the inserts in the mags; then, I used to shake the mag over the bin before reading it, now I run an ad blocker. I think where the ad industry went wrong wasn't primarily in the data collection and tracking but in the way they hijack web pages in an attempt to force their ads into our attention. I don't really mind a passive picture of some trainers sitting at the bottom of the page, even if I've just bought a pair. What pisses me off is the page being hijacked with a slow-loading, noisy video that pops out and stays in my vision even if I scroll past if (I'd willingly kill the c**t who invented that), and as a result I block all ads.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: THE place where people get content from millions of sites without paying

        > I guess the problem today is that nearly all the web advertising is the equivalent of the inserts in the mags

        That's not the problem I have at all. The problem I have is the spying that comes with the ads. If print magazine advertising spied on me, I would have had the same reaction to that as well.

        This effort by Google is intended to preserve their ability to spy. They just want to move where the data being collected is processed from their servers to your machine, that's all. Doing that makes it no less objectionable.

  15. RosslynDad
    Headmaster

    All valid points but...

    I can't get over the picture being of a Collared Dove.

    Sorry, I'll get my cagoule

    1. Timmy B Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: All valid points but...

      I came here to say the same... You saved me the embarrassment... (it's the first image if you search "turtledove" on shutterstock btw... ).

  16. Rich 2 Silver badge

    “ And it would prevent websites and associated ad networks from learning about their visitors' ad interests”

    That’s a shame - they won’t be able to learn that I’m not the least bit interested and they might as well bigger off

  17. Ben Tasker Silver badge

    "insisting that people do prefer targeted ads over untargeted ones"

    I'm a sample of one, but here's my experience in this respect.

    My site has Google Ads on it. When GDPR was becoming a thing, and Google _finally_ gave us the option, I turned off behavioural targetting.

    The ads are now chosen based on the content of the page (as crawled by Google, rather than "real time").

    > "I think something like TURTLEDOVE is feasible, and is necessary for dropping 3p cookies without trashing web sites' ads revenue,"

    My ad revenue has grown considerably since then, and not in proportion with growth in traffic. My explanation for this is that the ads are *better targeted* based on the surrounding content than they are if they're based upon stalker-ware. So there may be some truth in the idea that people prefer better targeted ads, but what that actually means is they prefer more relevant ads. Google and other advertising networks are seemingly crap at making ads more relevant with stalkerware.

    As a "publisher", I wouldn't go back to behaviourally targeted ads. Quite aside from the moral side of things, the un-targeted ones seem to be far more profitable. (I also don't run any anti-adblock stuff, the ads are there to help me keep the lights on, but if you don't want them then blocking is fine with me.)

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: "insisting that people do prefer targeted ads over untargeted ones"

      > but what that actually means is they prefer more relevant ads.

      So much this. And "relevancy" is context-dependent. If I'm on a tech site, an ad for related tech is more likely to be relevant to me at the moment than one that isn't, regardless of my other interests. Plus, I don't block ads -- I block tracking. If a site is showing ads that don't rely on Javascript, then those are ads that I'll actually see, regardless of relevancy.

      But I can't help but toss this in -- if the price for privacy is that ads aren't relevant to me at all then that's perfectly fine by me.

    2. ratfox Silver badge

      Re: "insisting that people do prefer targeted ads over untargeted ones"

      It does seem logical that people would prefer ads that are relevant to the context, rather than targeted. On the other hand, I can't imagine that the Google guys would not experiment with that as well, and chase whatever brings more cash. As far as I know, the ad money is always split the same between Google and the website, targeted or not, so their interests ought to be aligned here.

      It's the dark matter of the Internet: People who like targeted ads, click on all of them and make Google all its money.

  18. Blackjack

    You can make a pig wear a wig, dress and make up

    But you will really need a lot of beer to convince someone that's not a pig.

  19. pmb00cs

    Why not target the ADs based upon the site they're appearing on?

    I don't get the "people prefer targeted ads" schtick, what with the targeting being so rubbish (as already mentioned). But why do we need to target the user directly? We know they are interested in the topics of the page they are viewing (or at least they should be) so why can't the Ad be based on that? It worked in print and broadcast advertising for decades.

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