NGTC “How Technology Regulates” Writing Competition Winner

This Article examines Google’s stated and potentially unstated justifications for ending support for the third-party cookie and the ripple effects this move creates for data collection across the digital advertising ecosystem. It argues that Google’s allegedly pro-privacy move and marketers’ allegedly pro-privacy switch to first-party data ignore and create privacy harms. The only way to protect privacy in the era of first-party data (and protect against future shifts in collection techniques) is to reconceive the corporation-consumer data relationship. On a broader level, this Article aims to provide a warning about the nature of shifting data collection practices. New privacy concerns and new regulations beget new data collection practices. The data collection “party” never stays in one place for too long, so the tactics discussed in this Article may soon be outdated. Moving away from one invasive practice does not automatically mean that new practices will be inherently pro-privacy. The roving nature of data collection techniques requires a larger reconfiguration rather than a tactic-by-tactic approach. Part II of this Article examines how and why Google is changing data collection practices. Part III traces the shift from third-party cookie tracking to first-party data collection. Part IV identifies the various privacy harms ignored or created by the increase in first-party data collection. Part V looks to current conceptions of the corporation consumer data relationship for ways to reconceive the proper structure of first-party data collection. Part VI concludes.