Google to phase out third-party cookies in Chrome within two years

Search giant has been devaluing third-party cookie in stages over past year, but has now committed to timeline for its end.

Chrome: latest move is part of Privacy Sandbox initiative
Chrome: latest move is part of Privacy Sandbox initiative

Google has revealed plans to end support for third-party tracking cookies in its Chrome browser "within two years" as part of its commitment to increase user privacy and is now inviting the industry to help draw up new standards for the web.

The search giant has been reducing the potency of the third-party cookie since May 2019, but it has now for the first time committed to a timeline for when the ad-targeting tool will be obsolete within Chrome.

In a blog post published on Tuesday (14 January), Chrome engineering director Justin Schuh said this phased approach will allow Google to develop a "healthy, ad-supported web" that doesn't undermine the business model of advertising.

It forms part of Chrome's Privacy Sandbox initiative, launched in August, in which it has been inviting the industry to put forward ideas on new open web standards that advance privacy while continuing to support the free internet.

"We are working actively across the ecosystem so that browsers, publishers, developers and advertisers have the opportunity to experiment with these new mechanisms, test whether they work well in various situations and develop supporting implementations," Schuh said.

He compared Chrome's phased approach with that of Apple's Safari and Mozilla's Firefox, both of which have already rolled out strict restrictions on tracking cookies.

"Some browsers have reacted to these [privacy] concerns by blocking third-party cookies, but we believe this has unintended consequences that can negatively impact both users and the web ecosystem. By undermining the business model of many ad-supported websites, blunt approaches to cookies encourage the use of opaque techniques such as fingerprinting (an invasive workaround to replace cookies), which can actually reduce user privacy and control," he wrote. "We believe that we as a community can, and must, do better."

Google unveiled plans to "more aggressively" restrict fingerprinting at its annual I/O developer conference in May.

Chrome plans to start trials of the new Privacy Sandbox web standards by the end of 2020, starting with conversion measurement and following with personalisation, Schuh revealed.

Adam Solomon, chief marketing officer at data solutions provider Lotame, welcomed the opportunity to help guide the new standards for the web, but added: "The real question is whether Google's actions will speak louder than its words – namely all good actors being given equal opportunity to leverage this tech similarly without undue advantage given to Google in the process.

"As long as Google is committed to open collaboration, we're more than happy to participate and help our marketer, brand and agency clients navigate this path."

A version of this story first appeared on Campaign Asia-Pacific

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