Google has now announced that its privacy change to Chrome, which was supposed to block third-party cookies, has been delayed by a couple of years. The search engine has decided to phase out third-party cookies over a three-month period, starting mid-2023 and ending late that year.
In a blog, Vinay Goel, Privacy Engineering Director, Chrome, wrote, “Today, we’re sharing the latest on the Privacy Sandbox initiative, including a timeline for Chrome’s plan to phase out support for third-party cookies. While there’s considerable progress with this initiative, it's become clear that more time is needed across the ecosystem to get this right.”
Goel wrote, “We need to move at a responsible pace. This will allow sufficient time for public discussion on the right solutions, continued engagement with regulators, and for publishers and the advertising industry to migrate their services. This is important to avoid jeopardising the business models of many web publishers which support freely available content. And by providing privacy-preserving technology, we as an industry can help ensure that cookies are not replaced with alternative forms of individual tracking, and discourage the rise of covert approaches like fingerprinting.”
In January 2020, Google announced that Chrome would stop supporting third-party cookies until it is phased out completely. The search engine has since been working on developing alternative tools such as ‘FLoCs’ (Federated Learning of Cohorts), which basically clusters people into large groups of similar behaviour. Then, later in the year, Google announced that it will not build any ‘alternate identifiers’ to track an individual’s activity on the web for its widely used product Chrome once it eliminates third-party cookies.
For the uninitiated, third-party cookies are those that are stored under a different domain than the user might be currently using and are widely used to track a consumer’s web activity to show relevant ads. Conversations around third-party cookies violating privacy have been doing the rounds for quite some time.
The advertising and marketing industry was buzzing with conversations praising and criticising the search engine giant’s move to safeguard consumers' privacy.
On the one hand, it was touted as one of the most disruptive decisions in the digital advertising era, and on the other hand, the move drew flak as personalisation on websites outside the brand’s own website will be affected as customers will start seeing more irrelevant ads. The critics also said there could be an impact on the revenues of publishers.
Goel said, “We plan to continue to work with the web community to create more private approaches to key areas, including ad measurement, delivering relevant ads and content, and fraud detection.”