Google delays plan to block third-party cookies in Chrome by two years

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Earlier this month we reported on how Google was working with regulators in the UK on its Privacy Sandbox plan to build a more privacy-focused online experience. Part of said plan was to block third-party tracking on Chrome, but a new update posted on the company’s blog pushes that plan out by about two years.

More specifically, now Google says it will begin the process of blocking third-party cookies on its browser in mid-2023 over a three month period.

As for why the two year delay has been announced, it looks like Google is placing some of the blame on the regulators, as they bring up more requests that the tech firm will need to look at regarding Chrome. Added to this is the fact that the browser is the most popular in the world, which means significant changes as outlined in the Privacy Sandbox would impact advertisers, so there is also that to consider.

“Today, Chrome and others have offered more than 30 proposals, and four of those proposals are available in origin trials. For Chrome, specifically, our goal is to have the key technologies deployed by late 2022 for the developer community to start adopting them. Subject to our engagement with the United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and in line with the commitments we have offered, Chrome could then phase out third-party cookies over a three month period, starting in mid-2023 and ending in late 2023,” wrote Vinay Goel, Privacy Engineering director for Chrome.

Goel further unpacked some of the development milestones that should be diarised over the next two years, starting in late-2022.

“Once testing is complete and APIs are launched in Chrome, we will announce the start of stage 1. During stage 1, publishers and the advertising industry will have time to migrate their services. We expect this stage to last for nine months, and we will monitor adoption and feedback carefully before moving to stage 2,” he explained.  “Chrome will phase out support for third-party cookies over a three month period finishing in late 2023,” he added.

Given this latest update, it looks like trying to make the internet a more privacy-focused environment will prove difficult for Google, especially given the scale of its reach, number of services and stakeholders who are dependent on the decisions the company makes.

One example of this is the divisive Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) element of the Privacy Sandbox, which is a semi-anonymous decentralised system that would group users by yet-to-be-determined demographics and allow advertisers to target ads at people.

Given that targeted ads is one of the big reasons why the Privacy Sandbox has been proposed, building a watered down version of that within the Sandbox is no less problematic and will therefore require significant input to refine the system or remove it altogether.

Our only hope is that this is not simply a delaying tactic before an announcement to scrap the plan altogether is made because the relevant parties could not reach an agreement.

Google says an sizeable update to the Privacy Sandbox is in the offing, so we’ll need to see what further details are listed.

Robin-Leigh Chetty

Robin-Leigh Chetty

Editor of Hypertext. Covers smartphones, IoT, 5G, cloud computing and a few things in between. Also a keen photographer and dabbles in console games when not taking the hatchet to stories.

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