Google delays phase-out of Chrome’s third-party cookies

Chrome users will be subject to third-party tracking for at least 18 months longer than expected

Google has decided to delay its plans to phase out support for third-party cookies in its Chrome browser.

Originally planned for January 2022, the date has now been moved to mid-2023, meaning that Chrome users will be subject to third-party tracking for at least 18 months longer than expected.

Labelled by the company as the Privacy Sandbox, the initiative was first introduced in 2019 with the aim of preventing ad-personalisation companies from collecting data about users' browsing habits through their cookies, following similar moves by Mozilla and Apple.

However, in a company blog post, Chrome’s privacy engineering director Vinay Goel said that the company “need[s] to move at a responsible pace”.

“While there’s considerable progress with this initiative, it's become clear that more time is needed across the ecosystem to get this right,” he stated, adding that the delay will “allow sufficient time for public discussion on the right solutions, continued engagement with regulators, and for publishers and the advertising industry to migrate their services”.

Goel said that the phase-out has been divided into two stages, with the former providing publishers and the advertising industry with nine months to migrate their services, starting in late 2022. Stage 2 will then “phase out support for third-party cookies over a three month period finishing in late 2023”.

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However, the two-stage approach is still subject to Google’s “engagement with the CMA”, which opened an investigation into the Privacy Sandbox earlier this year due to “privacy concerns”, as pointed out by CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli.

“As the CMA found in its recent market study, Google’s Privacy Sandbox proposals will potentially have a very significant impact on publishers like newspapers, and the digital advertising market. But there are also privacy concerns to consider, which is why we will continue to work with the ICO as we progress this investigation, while also engaging directly with Google and other market participants about our concerns,” Coscelli said at the time.

Google is also facing scrutiny over the Privacy Sandbox in the US, where 13 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico have extended an antitrust complaint against the company.

"By blocking cookies, and through proposals in Privacy Sandbox, Google forcibly inserts itself in the middle of publishers’ business relationships with non-Google advertising companies, cutting off publishers’ ability to transact with rivals without also going through Google," the complaint reads.

Google said that it will “soon” provide “a more detailed schedule” on its Privacy Sandbox website.

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