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BLOG: Why you should be worried about Google ditching cookies

Mark Hachman | Sept. 20, 2013
Google's conceptual AdIDs could improve upon the traditional browser cookie, but they could also lead to even more sophisticated tracking—and that could get spooky.

But the problem is that we've come so far from a past where advertisers deduced the audience of "Little House on the Prairie" from Nielsen ratings, to one in which what you are doing right now can be deduced from a variety of factors. Google has mastered the art of trading useful services in return for your personalized data. And in a world that Google hopes will be governed by Google Glass, its Nexus phones, and self-driving cars, is there any doubt that consumers should be concerned?

When we talk about the future of devices whose wireless connections will form the structure of the Internet of Things, gimmicks like adjusting your home's thermostat remotely are just what's on the surface. In this world, devices will gossip behind your back, noting that youv'e just removed your last gallon of milk. It's these multitude of permutations of data acting, interacting, and reacting, that advertisers eventually hope to monetize. Eventually, ads will become smart, personalized, and predictive.

You tell me: In that scenario, would you mind if an embedded ad on The New York Times Web page reminded you to pick up a gallon of Sunnyside non-fat on your way home from work? Or would you rather your self-driving car merely added in a short detour? Or would you rather manage your life entirely by yourself?

Intel anthropologist Genevieve Bell recently noted that your a petabyte's worth of your genomic data may be the key to personalized cancer treatments that could extend your life. But oh, what a treasure trove for your insurance company. (Sergey Brin's wife, Anne Wojcicki, runs such a firm, 23andMe.)

Here's the question that worries me: Moving forward, what happens as your data—what makes you, you—becomes increasingly commoditized? In twenty-five years, will we be trading our entire genome for a few more lives in Candy Crush Saga X? Probably not. But it doesn't sound all that far-fetched.


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