Third-party cookies win reprieve until late 2023 following broad discontent

third-party cookies
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Recognising growing calls for better privacy protection, Google promised to “phase out” third-party cookies from its Chrome browser by 2022. But the tech giant has delayed its plans to shut-down the tracking technology after pushback from regulators, privacy advocates and the digital-media industry.

  • Google announced last week that its Chrome browser will stop supporting third-party cookies late in 2023, almost two years after its original deadline of early 2022. “While there’s considerable progress with this initiative, it’s become clear that more time is needed across the ecosystem to get this right,” Google said on its Keyword blog.
  • The delay is designed to give the publishers, advertisers and regulators more time to adapt to replacement technologies. Google’s preferred replacement for ad targeting – an interest-based identity solution known as FLoCs – has met with broad resistance
  • Google’s decision to delay highlights the challenges faced in balancing demands for stronger user-privacy protections, protecting the $455 billion global online-ad ecosystem and defending itself against allegations that it’s third-party cookie replacement creates special advantages.

Writing for the Verge, Dieter Bohn said: “The more Google cuts off third-party tracking, the more it harms other advertising companies and potentially increases its own dominance in the ad space. The less Google cuts off tracking, the more likely it is to come under fire for not protecting user privacy. And no matter what it does, it will come under heavy fire from regulators, privacy advocates, advertisers, publishers, and anybody else with any kind of stake in the web.”

Regulatory challenges
  • Regulators across the world have been examining Google’s plans to kill off the third-party cookie and the creation of alleged advantages built into replacement tracking solutions that will allow Google to continue individual-level targeting on its own properties.
  • In the U.S Google’s cookie-replacement plan was raised in a December antitrust lawsuit against the company bought by Texas and nine other U.S. states.
  • The EU has said it is investigating Google’s plan to remove cookies as part of a wide-ranging inquiry into allegations that Google has abused its prominent role in advertising technology.
  • In the UK, Google has had to commit to giving the competition watchdog 60 days’ notice before it cancels third-party cookies to allow it to review and impose changes to its plan.
Industry challenges

The decision to delay has been broadly welcomed by publishers and advertisers. But ad-tech vendors are warning publishers and advertisers to keep working towards a future when third-party cookies finally disappear.

  • Konrad Feldman, CEO and Co-Founder of Quantcast said: “Google may have called extra time on the third-party cookie, but brands, agencies, publishers, and technology companies should remain focused on finding a long-term alternative.”
  • Joe Root, CEO & Co-founder at Permutive said: “Don’t place your reliance on Google coming out with a solution in all this. Cookie-less solutions that scale and meet regulation are already live and many advertisers are spending heavily here.”
  • Travis Clinger, SVP Addressability and Ecosystem, LiveRamp said: “While the deadline for cookie deprecation has extended, urgency persists and the industry should remain committed to moving beyond this identifier. This is simply a delay, not a change in strategy.

Google has always acknowledged that a hard stop to third-party cookies is hugely problematic, and will continue pushing for an agreed-upon set of standards to draw a balance between privacy and targeting.

It is now pointing to a “rigorous, multi-phased public development process, including extensive discussion and testing periods” for FLoC and other proposals. Dieter Bohn says this is a ‘fairly obvious signal that it will end up changing or replacing FLoC’ meaning the search for a workable replacement to third-party cookies continues.

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