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    Google delays phasing out third-party cookies again

    Google has announced that it will be further delaying its plans to phase out third-party cookies. The announcement came before Google and the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)’s quarterly report on the Privacy Sandbox for the Web initiative, set to be published on April 26th.

    In a statement on its blog, Google said, “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. It’s also critical that the CMA has sufficient time to review all evidence including results from industry tests, which the CMA has asked market participants to provide by the end of June.”

    Google also said it will not complete third-party cookie deprecation during the second half of Q4 but hoped to start by early 2025.

    History of Google’s commitments to phase out third-party cookies

    Third-party cookies are small pieces of data that are collected by websites to track user activity. These are particularly lucrative to websites, as this data can be used to target users with personalized ads and assess how ads are performing. However, third-party cookies have long been criticized for their effects on user privacy.

    Google first pledged in 2020, to phase out third-party cookies from Chrome by 2022, citing concerns of privacy. However, in 2021, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) began an investigation against Google’s proposal to remove third-party cookies from Chrome browsers. The competition authority said that phasing out third-party cookies takes away “the ability of publishers to generate revenue and undermine competition in digital advertising, entrenching Google’s market power.” Websites hosted on Google Search gain revenue from advertising enabled by third-party cookies. Thus, according to the competition authority not providing this data was anti-competitive.

    In 2022 CMA accepted Google’s legally binding commitment to address the competition concerns. This required Google to develop a set of standards aimed at enhancing privacy under the CMA and the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in an initiative called the “The Privacy Sandbox initiative.”

    The Privacy Sandbox aims to phase out third-party cookies and develop new solutions to address the concerns of advertisers. Google had set a target for 2024. Until then, Google is expected to publish quarterly reports to track its progress on its aims. In January 2024, Google announced that it had begun testing  Tracking Protection, a feature that restricts website access to third-party cookies. Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that the ICO the proposed recommendations for Privacy Sandbox had gaps that could be exploited by advertisers to track users.

    Effect of this delay on users and websites

    Sandeep Amar, founder of pdlab.me noted that this is the third time Google has delayed the deprecation of third-party cookies. “They don’t want to fully deprecate it [third-party cookies] because it’s going to affect their capability of targeting users.”

    He noted that from a user perspective, “this continues to be a large privacy concern.”However, this may be a positive outcome for website publishers. “At some level, this going to help publishers get a longer road in terms of making revenue through Google. Because once third-party cookies are deprecated I think there will be a loss of revenue for publishers”, he said.

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    The post Google delays phasing out third-party cookies again appeared first on MediaNama.

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