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Google delays move away from cookies in Chrome to 2024

by George Mensah
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Google has postponed its intentions to gradually stop using third-party cookies, which are used by websites to remember user settings and track online behavior. Anthony Chavez, Google’s VP of Privacy Sandbox, wrote in a blog post that the firm is now aiming for the “second half of 2024” as the deadline for implementing a substitute solution.

It will take a while to arrive. Google announced in June of last year that cookies would lose value in the second half of 2023. Prior to that, the business promised to make the changeover by 2022 in January 2020.

According to Chavez, “We’ve closely collaborated to improve our design suggestions based on feedback from developers, publishers, marketers, and regulators via forums.” The most common criticism we’ve heard is that third-party cookies in Chrome should not be deprecated until sufficient time has been given to testing and evaluating new technologies.

The business first revealed a long-term roadmap to embrace ostensibly more private techniques of tracking online users in 2019, which is when Google started its efforts to move away from cookies. The keystone is Privacy Sandbox, a project that seeks to develop online standards that support advertising without the usage of so-called “tracking” cookies. A person’s web history can be captured via tracking cookies, which are used to target adverts, and they can be active for years without the user’s knowledge.

In order to assess a user’s online behavior and provide a “privacy-preserving” ID that advertisers can use for targeting, Privacy Sandbox suggests employing an in-browser technique called Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC). Google asserts that FLoC is more anonymous than cookies, however the Electronic Frontier Foundation has compared it to a “behavioral credit score” and called it “the reverse of privacy-preserving technology.”

Regulators are now looking into whether Google’s adtech goals are anticompetitive as a result of Privacy Sandbox. The U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) stated plans to concentrate on Privacy Sandbox’s potential effects on both publishers and users in January 2021. Additionally, in March, 15 attorneys general from US states and Puerto Rico modified an antitrust case that had been filed in December, claiming that the Privacy Sandbox improvements would force advertisers to employ Google as a middleman in order to advertise.

In an earlier agreement, Google and the CMA agreed to work together to “resolve issues” as well as to regularly engage with and update both the CMA and the U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office on the development and distribution of Privacy Sandbox in Chrome.

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In the interim, Chavez claims that starting in August, Google would extend a trial of its Privacy Sandbox technology to “millions” of Chrome users. The trial population will then progressively grow throughout the following year and until 2023, with people who do not want to participate having the opportunity to opt out.

Google now anticipates that Chrome will introduce and generally support Privacy Sandbox APIs by the third quarter of 2023.

The future of the open web depends on enhancing people’s privacy while providing businesses with the resources they need to prosper online, according to Chavez. “We’ll continue to listen to and act upon comments as the online community tests these APIs,”

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