Google’s planned cookie ban pushed back to 2024

28 Jul 2022

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Google’s cookie-cutting timeline has been pushed back as it plans to expand testing of its Privacy Sandbox tech.

Google has delayed plans to phase out third-party cookies from its Chrome browser yet again, citing the need to further test alternatives.

The plan for cutting third-party cookies from Chrome was originally set to begin this year, but was pushed back to 2023 after a mixed response to its alternative proposals. The timeframe has now been changed to 2024.

Cookies are lines of code that a website stores in a user’s browser to track browsing activity. This data informs what type of ads are displayed to a user. They have been a critical part of the online ad industry’s business but have raised concerns about user privacy.

Google launched its Privacy Sandbox initiative to develop privacy-preserving alternatives to third-party cookies. The aim is to create technologies that both protect user privacy and give companies and developers tools for online advertising.

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) accepted a revised commitment relating to the Privacy Sandbox in February, which gave Google the green light for its plans to remove third-party cookies on its browser.

Anthony Chavez, Google VP for Privacy Sandbox, said yesterday (27 July) that trial versions of a number of new APIs have been tested in recent months by developers.

He said the most consistent feedback has been a need for more time to properly evaluate the Privacy Sandbox technologies before third-party cookies are phased out.

“This deliberate approach to transitioning from third-party cookies ensures that the web can continue to thrive, without relying on cross-site tracking identifiers or covert techniques like fingerprinting,” Chavez said in a blogpost.

“For these reasons, we are expanding the testing windows for the Privacy Sandbox APIs before we disable third-party cookies in Chrome.”

Chavez said Privacy Sandbox trials will expand to millions of users globally next month. The number of trial users will expand into next year, with plans to have the new APIs “generally available in Chrome” by the third quarter of 2023.

The company then intends to begin phasing out third-party cookies in Chrome in the second half of 2024.

A recent survey from the Compliance Institute suggested that 32pc of Irish organisations are not prepared at all for a cookie-less future, while 56pc are only somewhat prepared.

A weaker ad market

Google’s decision to delay its cookie ban comes as reduced spending in the advertising market is impacting revenues at tech firms.

In its second-quarter earnings report this week, Google parent company Alphabet noted a slowdown in advertising revenue growth.

Meta reported its first ever quarterly revenue drop this week, along with an underwhelming forecast for the year ahead. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said there appears to be an economic downturn that will have a “broad impact” on the digital advertising business.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic