24 August 2015

Google Is Watching You

In Google and the Brussels Bureaucrats, I wrote,

I have to return to the same sort of web site maintenance that I did for the 'Going Mobile' series, once again dictated by Google policies: 'We want to let you know about a new policy about obtaining EU end-users' consent that reflects regulatory and best practice guidance.'

To be specific, we're talking about my web site mark-weeks.com, its use of Google's Adsense, and the cookies that Adsense drops on visitors to the site. I have three options on Google's policy:-

  • Ignore it
  • Do enough to satisfy the minimum requirements
  • Remove any code that uses cookies

Ignoring the policy probably won't work in the long term and removing the code means knowing which third-party services are doing what (my pages also have links to Amazon.com, another black box service). Only Google knows how Adsense operates internally and only Google can satisfy the EU's requirements to the letter. Google is essentially doing the minimum by pushing the EU requirements on to the owners of the web sites that use the Adsense service. I'll follow Google's example by also doing the minimum.

Blogspot.com (together with the related Blogger.com) is another Google service that encourages the use of Adsense. On that service Google has grabbed the bull by the horns and introduced a message that is repeated over-and-over across all Blogspot.com subdomains. For example, when I clicked to the Adsense blog's post Introducing a new user consent policy (adsense.blogspot.com), I was greeted with the message,

Deze site gebruikt cookies van Google om services te leveren, advertenties te personaliseren en verkeer te analyseren. Informatie over je gebruik van deze site wordt gedeeld met Google. Als je deze site gebruikt, ga je akkoord met het gebruik van cookies. • Meer informatie • Ik snap het

Yes, it's in Flemish/Dutch and, yes, I've seen the same message dozens (hundreds?) of times on the various computers that I use. It doesn't matter that I've told Google many times that I prefer English and it doesn't matter that I've already accepted the message ('Ik snap het') on other blogs. Google intends to annoy me along with millions of other blog visitors and to blame it on the EU: 'Take that, Eurocrats!'

Clicking on 'Meer informatie' ('More information') leads to a page written in English, How Google uses cookies.

We use cookies for many purposes. We use them, for example, to remember your safe search preferences, to make the ads you see more relevant to you, to count how many visitors we receive to a page, to help you sign up for our services and to protect your data.

Why can't they use cookies to note my language preference or to remember that I've already accepted their cookie policy? And why do they need cookies 'to count how many visitors we receive to a page'? In reality, it's all about targeted ads.

Another link on that 'How' page goes to Managing cookies in your browser. Here the only instructions are for the Google Chrome browser. Users of other browsers have to figure it out for themselves. Google, Google, Google; get it?

Back to satisfying the minimum requirements on my own site, what does that entail? I'll look at that in my next post in this series.

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