Google can’t seem to quit cookies, delays killing them again


Google this week once again said it will delay plans to eliminate third-party identity tracking software — cookies — from its Chrome browser and from Android OS. Now, it plans to remove them by 2025.

The tech giant said the latest delay is due to “ongoing challenges related to reconciling divergent feedback from the industry, regulators and developers.” 

As far back as 2019, Google was telling users it planned to limit third-party cookies and phase them out in Chrome and other Chromium open-source browsers by 2022. In 2020, it delayed its plans to eliminate them through its Privacy Sandbox initiative. Then in 2022, Google pushed back its plans to 2023. And last year, it delayed the plans again — to the second half of 2024.

In January, it again said it would find alternatives to cookies for identifying users and discovering their habits, but was pushing back plans to eliminate trackers.

“We recognize that there are ongoing challenges related to reconciling divergent feedback from the industry, regulators and developers, and will continue to engage closely with the entire ecosystem,” Google wrote in a blog post this week.

“For marketers, the message is clear: get off cookies now,” said said Ken Weiner, chief technology officer at digital advertising platform GumGum. “Most of the industry, including mobile and other browsers like Safari, have already moved away from cookies or never used them in the first place. Don’t wait for Google’s shifting timeline to take action; the transition should be happening now. Keep in mind that regardless of cookies, the web’s future—driven by consumer preferences and regulatory changes—is identity-less. Contextual targeting is the best way forward.”

Google has been working with the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the Information Commissions Office (ICO) on its plans to use its Privacy Sandbox instead of cookies. The British regulatory authority and others have voiced concerns about Google’s plan, saying it could “unfairly hinder competition” by giving preference to Google’s own advertising products, which would increase the company’s market dominance.

“We remain committed to engaging closely with the CMA and ICO and we hope to conclude that process this year,” the company said. “Assuming we can reach an agreement, we envision proceeding with third-party cookie deprecation starting early next year.”

cookie is a small file that is downloaded onto a computer when the user visits a website. They can do helpful things, such as remembering preferences, recording what has been added to a shopping basket, and counting the number of people viewing a website. They can also use a person’s identity to allow third parties to bombard users with emails and targeted online ads.

Cookies often ingest and retain sensitive consumer information such as login credentials, personally identifiable information, and browsing history. As a result, the move away from cookies should help reduce some cybersecurity risks.

Over the past few years, the online advertising industry has been undergoing a sea change as regulators restricted how cookies can be used and browser providers moved away from them in response to consumer outcries over privacy. “They often feel surveilled; some even find it ‘creepy’ that a website can show them ads related to their behavior elsewhere,” according to a recent study by the HEC Paris Business School.

Google has said its Privacy Sandbox project will create new standards for websites to access user information without compromising privacy by sharing a subset of user information without relying on third-party cookies. “It will provide publishers with safer alternatives to existing technology, so they can continue building digital businesses while your data stays private,” the company said on its website.

For Android device users, Google will introduce new solutions that operate without cross-app identifiers — including Google Play services’s Advertising ID, which will limit data sharing with third parties and offer a user-resettable, and user-deletable ID for advertising.

Google Chrome, which is used for about 66% of all internet traffic, impacts more consumers than any other browser, so changing the way it tracks users would also have market-changing consequences.

“In the short term, there will be some disruption with advertisers struggling to market themselves effectively,” said Roger Beharry Lall, research director for IDC’s Advertising Technologies and SMB Marketing Applications practice. “This may seem good for consumers who are ‘cookie free.’ However, there will likely just be more irrelevant ads flooding the media trying to find an audience. So, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword.”

Browser Security, Browsers, Chrome, Chrome OS, Privacy

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