There was a time when Google was but a blip on the screen of the World Wide Web (WWW) – and highly likely, little else on the radar of the organization that governed it and still does, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
However, things have changed, and now the W3C, led by Tim Berners-Lee – none other than the inventor of the Web – has to bow down to the power of Google.
The vote on an issue concerning privacy may have “isolated” the Silicon Valley giant – but it certainly got Google, i.e. Alphabet Inc, what it wanted.
W3C's consensus-based decision making means that Google can impose its interests over the remaining 24 organizations in the group that govern the web for the whole world. Just like in the “real world” UN Security Council a veto-wielding member can obliterate the stance of all other members – that's what Google has done when it blocked an attempt of W3Cs Privacy Interest Group, PING, to green-light a new charter on privacy.
One paragraph said PING could ask the W3C to give it the power to block any projects that the group felt undermined user privacy.
Google's response? A hard “no,” voiced during a vote held on August 4.
In a response that should trigger just about any hypocrisy sensor any web observer still has left in them – Google, that king of authoritarian, self-serving policies on the web, attempted to defend its interests by deflecting those same vices onto others:
“We are primarily concerned that the PING is attempting to insert itself as a required step for all specifications. Simply establishing themselves as an authoritarian review group without formally establishing self-serve guiding principles will cause significant unnecessary chaos in the development of the web platform,” Google said.
And while Google and its Chrome browser as the dominant players probably feel very confident in pushing their agenda onto the web – there are still pockets of resistance in the shape of Mozilla's Firefox and Apple's Safari browser.
For what these are worth, they will now block third-party tracking cookies – little bits of code that let advertisers follow users around the web with targeted ads.
Chrome, meanwhile, and Google behind it – will once again bend language out of shape to suggest their decision to keep out of offering their users privacy simply means promoting choices that give them “more control over which cookies can track them.”
Google's attempt to “improve web privacy without getting rid of targeted ads” has been confronted by at least one prominent online voice willing to speak up, namely, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), whose researchers referred to all this as simply a case of “privacy gaslighting.”