Google last month has announced a new IP Protection feature for Chrome that will help protect users' privacy by masking their IP addresses from certain domains. The feature is currently in the early stages of development and will be rolled out to a small percentage of users in the pre-stable Chrome channels.
IP Protection works by routing traffic for a set of domains through proxies. This prevents those domains from seeing the user's real IP address. Google says that it will use a list-based approach and that only domains on the list in a third-party context will be impacted.
The initial test phase will only proxy requests to domains owned by Google. This will allow Google to test its infrastructure and refine the list of domains that will be proxied. In the future, Google plans to use a 2-hop proxy, which is more secure but also more complex.
Google says that IP Protection will be opt-in initially and that it will roll out in a phased manner. This will help ensure that users have control over their privacy decisions and that Google can monitor behaviors at lower volumes.
Google is also working with other browser vendors to implement similar features. WebKit, the rendering engine used by Safari, has already shipped a similar feature in Intelligent Tracking Protection.
The goal of IP Protection is to help protect users from cross-site tracking. Cross-site tracking is a technique used by advertisers and other third parties to track users across different websites. IP addresses are one of the most effective ways to track users across websites. By masking users' IP addresses, IP Protection can help to make cross-site tracking more difficult.
Google says that it will continue to monitor feedback from the ecosystem and make adjustments to IP Protection as needed.
Benefits of IP Protection
IP Protection offers a number of benefits to users, including:
- Enhanced privacy: IP Protection helps to protect users' privacy by masking their IP addresses from certain domains. This makes it more difficult for advertisers and other third parties to track users across different websites.
- Reduced fingerprinting: Fingerprinting is a technique used by advertisers and other third parties to track users online by collecting unique information about their devices and browsers. IP Protection can help to reduce fingerprinting by masking users' IP addresses.
- Improved security: IP Protection can help to improve security by making it more difficult for attackers to exploit vulnerabilities on certain websites.
IP addresses: a valuable tool for advertisers
IP addresses are however a valuable tool for advertisers. IP addresses are used for a variety of purposes in advertising, including:
- Targeting: Advertisers can use IP addresses to target ads to specific geographic locations, demographics, or interests. For example, an advertiser might want to target their ads to people who live in a certain city, who are interested in a certain topic, or who have visited a certain website in the past.
- Measurement: Advertisers can use IP addresses to measure the effectiveness of their advertising campaigns. For example, an advertiser can track how many people who were shown an ad clicked on it and then visited the advertiser's website.
- Fraud prevention: Advertisers can use IP addresses to help prevent fraud, such as click fraud and ad stacking. For example, an advertiser can identify and block IP addresses that are known to be associated with fraudulent activity.
Google's IP Protection follows Private Relay
Private Relay is a privacy feature that Apple launched with iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, and watchOS 8, on September 20, 2021. It encrypts traffic leaving your device and sends it through two separate relays before it reaches its destination. This makes it more difficult for anyone to track users online activity.
All Apple users with eligible devices and iCloud+ subscriptions have access to Private Relay.
- iPhone and iPad: iPhone 6s or later, iPad Pro, iPad Air (3rd generation or later), or iPad mini (5th generation or later)
- Mac: Mac with macOS Monterey or later
- Apple Watch: Apple Watch Series 3 or later
- iCloud+ (Personal)
- iCloud+ (Family)
- iCloud+ (2TB)
Private Relay works by first sending your traffic through a relay that Apple operates. This relay removes the IP address and replaces it with a generic IP address. The traffic is then sent to a second relay, which is operated by a third-party partner. This second relay decrypts the traffic and sends it to its final destination.
Private Relay is a significant improvement over other privacy features, such as VPNs. VPNs typically only encrypt traffic between your device and the VPN server. Private Relay encrypts traffic all the way to its final destination.
Private Relay affects advertising in a few ways. First, it makes it more difficult for advertisers to track users across different websites. This is because Private Relay hides the user's IP address from advertisers. Second, Private Relay can make it more difficult for advertisers to target ads to users based on their interests. This is because Private Relay encrypts traffic, which makes it difficult for advertisers to see what websites users are visiting.
Overall, Private Relay is a powerful privacy feature that can help to protect users from online tracking and advertising.
Here are some additional details about how Private Relay affects advertising:
- IP address masking: Private Relay masks the user's IP address from websites and other third parties. This makes it more difficult for advertisers to track users across different websites.
- Traffic encryption: Private Relay encrypts traffic between the user's device and the final destination. This makes it difficult for advertisers to see what websites users are visiting.
- Ad targeting: Private Relay can make it more difficult for advertisers to target ads to users based on their interests. This is because advertisers cannot see what websites users are visiting.
Overall, Private Relay makes it more difficult for advertisers to track and target users. This can make ads less relevant to users and can also make it more difficult for advertisers to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns.
However, it is important to note that Private Relay does not completely block advertising. Advertisers can still use other methods to track and target users, such as cookies and fingerprinting.