First Party Bundles is a feature offered by Google that is designed to give site owners the ability to declare multiple sites as First Party. Businesses can own multiple domain names, and with proprietary bundles, they can get compatible browsers to manage all properties identically.
Currently, different domain names are considered third parties in most cases, even if they are owned by the same company. With the new technology in place, Google could consolidate all of its properties to improve communication and data flows between them.
Brave believes proprietary sets are detrimental to user privacy because companies can use the feature to track users across their properties. Third-party cookies, which are used for the same tracking purpose, will soon be a thing of the past.
Google explains that first-party sets “define a more realistic ‘privacy boundary’ by reflecting the actual organization of websites, which often span multiple registrable domains.” Google points out that the feature would standardize functionality for the entire web.
Mozilla, the organization that makes the Firefox web browser, declared proprietary bundles harmful in 2020. Feedback from Apple has been positive, according to this Chrome status page.
Brave Software, maker of the Brave browser, recently joined Mozilla in stating that proprietary bundles are an anti-privacy feature. Brave’s senior privacy director, Peter Snyder, pointed out on the official blog that adopting the feature would make it more difficult for “user-friendly browsers to protect their users’ privacy.”
Proprietary sets will allow more sites to better track your web behavior and make it harder for users to predict how their information will be shared.
Snyder thinks Chrome’s dominance will likely lead to the feature being implemented in other browsers to “maintain web compatibility.” Chrome has a market share of over 60% and many browsers are already using the same source as Chrome. The two main exceptions are Apple’s Safari web browser and Mozilla’s Firefox. Other browsers including Microsoft Edge, Brave, Vivaldi, or Opera use Chromium as a source.
Owned sets enable user tracking across properties owned by organizations and individuals. Google could declare most of its properties as a proprietary set; this would mean that if a user is known on google.com, he is also known on any other site of the owner set, even if this site has never been visited or is visited for the first time.
Google would be aware of the user visiting YouTube, Blogger or Alphabet.com for the first time, provided these domains are in the same owner set. Worse still, according to Snyder, users would have no control over the mechanism.
Google argues that first-party sets improve privacy because they pave the way for removing third-party cookie support in the browser. Snyder argues that first-party sets are not a privacy feature, but a feature designed to “ensure that companies can continue to identify and track people across sites.”
Google is continuing its work on its Privacy Sandbox project. The company dropped support for the controversial FLoC in January 2022 and replaced it with the equally controversial Topics system. The company is currently running ad system trials in Chrome.
Chrome’s dominance makes it hard to oppose features. Although browser makers may choose to ignore certain features that Google implements in Chromium and Chrome, this could lead to web compatibility issues, as many developers look to Chrome first for web standards and support.
Now you: what is your opinion on proprietary sets?