Google is pushing back its plan to get rid of third-party cookies in Chrome to the latter half of 2024, according to a company blog published Wednesday. Cookies are small bits of text advertisers and publishers use to target ads to users.
More time is needed for testing to improve people’s privacy, “while giving businesses the tools they need to succeed online,” which “is vital to the future of the open web,” wrote Anthony Chavez, vice president of privacy at Sandbox, an initiative the search engine giant developed in 2019. Privacy Sandbox was designed to develop “privacy-preserving alternatives to third-party cookies and other forms of cross-site tracking” in 2020.
Last year, Google said it would end support for those cookies in its Chrome browser by 2023 once it figured out how to address the needs of users, publishers and advertisers and come up with different tools. But then the company pushed back the timeline, saying it needs to “move at a responsible pace.” The action gave the digital advertising industry more time to firm up plans for targeted ads that are more privacy-conscious.
Delays are impacting advertising and e-commerce companies
With this new timeline, the company won’t make the privacy change for another two years.
The second delay comes amid privacy changes by Apple to its operating system privacy updates, which reduces advertisers’ targeting capabilities by limiting them from accessing a user’s iPhone identifier. Earlier this year, Facebook said the changes will end up costing it $10 billion this year.
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Meanwhile, amid the delay, U.S. and U.K. regulators are reviewing the company’s dominance in the ad tech ecosystem. Earlier this year, Google said it reached an agreement with the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority on how it develops and releases the Privacy Sandbox in Chrome worldwide.
Google Chrome continues to be the most popular browser, but some of its rivals have made more effort to stop their users from being tracked, such as Apple Safari, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge and Brave Software Brave,
Expanding the testing windows
Over the past several months, Google has released trial versions of several new Privacy Sandbox APIs in Chrome for developers to test, while working to refine its design proposals based on input it received from developers, publishers, marketers and regulators via forums such as the W3C.
But the company isn’t there yet. “The most consistent feedback we’ve received is the need for more time to evaluate and test the new Privacy Sandbox technologies before deprecating third-party cookies in Chrome,’’ Chavez wrote. “This feedback aligns with our commitment to the CMA to ensure that the Privacy Sandbox provides effective, privacy-preserving technologies and the industry has sufficient time to adopt these new solutions.”
Google called this a “deliberate approach to transitioning from third-party cookies,” which “ensures that the web can continue to thrive, without relying on cross-site tracking identifiers or covert techniques like fingerprinting.”
So, Google is expanding the testing windows for the Privacy Sandbox APIs before third-party cookies are disabled in Chrome.
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Developers can already test these APIs today, and beginning in early August, the Privacy Sandbox trials will expand to millions of users globally, Chavez said. Gradually, Google will increase the trial population throughout the rest of the year and into 2023.
“Before users are added into the trials, they will be shown a prompt giving them the option to manage their participation,’’ Chavez wrote. “As the web community tests these APIs, we’ll continue to listen and respond to feedback.”
By Q3 2023, the company expects to launch Privacy Sandbox APIs that will be generally available in Chrome. “As developers adopt these APIs, we now intend to begin phasing out third-party cookies in Chrome in the second half of 2024,” Chavez wrote.
Up-to-date timelines can be found on the Privacy Sandbox website.