Google’s Plan to Eliminate Third-Party Cookies
Google has officially announced its intention to gradually phase out third-party cookies as part of its Privacy Sandbox initiative. This initiative aims to enhance online privacy by reducing user tracking across websites while ensuring essential online services remain freely accessible. The phased approach begins with a 1% user testing period early in 2024, leading to a more extensive phase-out in the third quarter of 2024.
Third-party cookies are tracking codes set by websites other than the one currently being visited. They are primarily used for online advertising and tracking user behavior across different sites, allowing advertisers to create a profile of users’ interests for more personalized advertising experiences. However, they can also be used to track browsing habits and the sites visited, leading to a loss of privacy.
Google’s decision to phase out third-party cookies, which are essential for many web functionalities, marks a significant shift in online privacy. The company’s Privacy Sandbox initiative aims to replace third-party cookies with a more privacy-conscious approach, allowing users to manage their interests and grouping them into cohorts based on similar browsing patterns.
The availability of Privacy Sandbox APIs for Chrome users without the need to participate in an origin trial is a significant milestone in this initiative. This allows developers and advertising providers to assess their readiness for the planned deprecation of third-party cookies at scale across their products and services.
Google details the impact and testing
Google’s plan to phase out third-party cookies involves a carefully managed approach, starting with a 1% user testing period in early 2024 and leading to a broader phase-out in the third quarter of 2024. This initial testing phase is crucial for identifying and addressing web compatibility issues, and Google intends to manage it carefully to avoid significantly impacting user experience.
During this period, Google will introduce temporary solutions and user controls for managing temporary exceptions per top-level site in Chrome, aiming to mitigate potential disruptions. Johann Hofmann, Senior Software Engineer at Google, noted that the company is planning for early January to be the first release containing the technical capabilities to ramp to 1% and highlighted the risk associated with the holiday freeze.
Once third-party cookies are phased out, advertisers are expected to use Google’s Privacy Sandbox APIs to show advertisements based on a user’s computed interests. Notably, Firefox and Safari have already stopped default access to third-party cookies, and Google plans to implement a more secure approach, anticipating that other browsers will adopt similar strategies. Despite differences in handling cookies, Google aims for interoperability while adhering to privacy and security standards.
Google acknowledges the diverse feedback from web developers and is committed to engaging with them to develop privacy-preserving solutions that support a dynamic and open web, balancing strong user protection with essential web functionalities.