Google plans to ‘phase out’ third-party cookies on Chrome within next two years

15 Jan 2020

Image: PA Media

Over the next two years, Google will phase out third-party cookies to meet the demands of users urging for greater privacy and transparency.

Google has sounded the end of some internet trackers that are able to run on its Chrome web browser, but said the process could take up to two years.

The tech giant said it plans to “phase out” support for third-party cookies in a move designed to “fundamentally enhance privacy”.

Third-party cookies are used by websites other than the one the user is visiting, and are particularly popular among advertisers. First-party cookies created by the website the person is on will not be affected.

Hoping to develop alternative standards

Google announced on Tuesday (14 January) that it wants to make third-party cookies “obsolete” and hopes to develop alternative standards to “sustain an ad-supported web” that may be less invasive.

Rivals such as Safari and Firefox have already moved to block third-party cookies, but Google suggested changing too fast could have “unintended consequences that can negatively impact both users and the web ecosystem”.

Beginning in February, Google will implement techniques for limiting cross-site tracking, by enforcing its new SameSite rules. This means that cookies labelled for third-party use can only be accessed over a HTTPS connection. Google has already tested these rules on a small group of Chrome users over the last months.

‘We don’t want to put band-aid solutions on top of the web, we would rather fix the architecture of the web’

“Users are demanding greater privacy, including transparency, choice and control over how their data is used, and it’s clear the web ecosystem needs to evolve to meet these increasing demands,” said Justin Schuh, director of Chrome engineering at Google.

The work is part of the company’s Privacy Sandbox initiative announced in August 2019, which aims to build a more private but “healthy, ad-supported web”.

This initiative is aiming to create a scheme in which advertisers can still show relevant ads, while their access to personal information and browsing habits is significantly restricted.

Fixing the architecture of the web

Schuh said: “I’m not going to say that everyone has been on board for all of our proposals, but in all corners, some of the proposals have been received very well.

“For the ones that haven’t we’re open to alternative solutions as long as they have the kind of privacy and security properties – as long as they have the same kind of predictability that we expect – because we don’t want to put band-aid solutions on top of the web, we would rather fix the architecture of the web.”

Over the next year, Schuh said that advertisers and publishers will be migrated to some of the new systems it is working on, with some participating in trials for Google’s new solution to third-party cookies.

– PA Media