Timothy Lee:

Google’s Chrome team is feeling pressure from competitors over ad tracking. Apple has long offered industry-leading protection against tracking cookies, while Mozilla recently announced that Firefox will begin blocking tracking cookies by default. Microsoft has been experimenting with tracking protection features in Edge, too.

But Google has a problem: it makes most of its money selling ads. Adopting the same aggressive cookie blocking techniques as its rivals could prevent Google’s customers from targeting ads—potentially hurting Google’s bottom line.

So in a blog post last week, Google outlined an alternative privacy vision—one that restricts some forms of user tracking without blocking the use of tracking cookies any time soon.

“Blocking cookies without another way to deliver relevant ads significantly reduces publishers’ primary means of funding, which jeopardizes the future of the vibrant Web,” Google’s Justin Schuh writes. (Those publishers, of course, include Ars publisher Conde Nast. We use cookies to serve targeted ads because they generate more revenue to support our journalism.)

Google also warns that completely blocking tracking cookies will cause ad networks to resort to browser fingerprinting as an alternative means of tracking users. Under this technique, a site harvests many small pieces of data about a user’s browser—browser version, fonts installed, extensions active, screen size, and so forth—to generate a “fingerprint” that uniquely identifies a particular device.

So Google’s proposal is to declare war on browser fingerprinting while only gradually restricting the use of cookies for ad targeting.