Google pushes its cookie ban back to 2023

25 Jun 2021

Image: © prima91/Stock.adobe.com

The tech giant was planning to kill off third-party cookies in Chrome in 2022 but delayed the plans a year as it seeks alternatives.

Google has pushed its timeline to end third-party cookies back by a year as advertisers and regulators continue to scrutinise the plans.

The tech giant had intended to end support for third-party cookies in the Chrome browser in early 2022. That timeline has now been shifted to 2023.

Cookies are lines of code that a website stores in a user’s browser that 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.

Google’s promise to end third-party cookies in Chrome, and to rein in ad tracking more generally, has had a mixed response. For the privacy conscious, it was a win. But for the vocal ad industry, it was potentially disastrous and has been a source of tension with Google.

The company has repeatedly said it would develop more privacy-conscious alternatives, through its Privacy Sandbox initiative, rather than institute a hard cut-off.

“In order to do this, we need to move at a responsible pace,” Google said in a blog post yesterday (24 June). “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.”

Support Silicon Republic

Ad industry groups like the Network Advertising Initiative welcomed the news.

But Google’s efforts to create alternatives for the ad industry have not yet had much success.

One effort is the Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC). In this approach, users are still tracked but grouped together based on certain interests that advertisers could then display ads to. This removed individual targeted advertising.

This hasn’t gone down well with advertisers and competition authorities have taken notice as well.

The UK’s watchdog has begun investigating Google’s plan to end cookies, citing the fact that the plan could dwindle competition in the ad industry.

In its update this week, Google said that subject to its engagement with the UK Competition and Markets Authority and in line with the privacy commitments it has offered, Chrome could phase out third-party cookies over a three month period, starting in mid-2023 and ending in late 2023.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin

editorial@siliconrepublic.com