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Google Says Goodbye to Cookies

on Friday, 23 February 2024 in Technology & Intellectual Property Update: Arianna C. Goldstein, Editor

On January 4, 2024, 1% of Chrome users received a notification indicating that they would be able to “Browse with more privacy.” In effect, Google has begun testing Tracking Protection, a newly introduced feature that restricts third-party cookies. For several years, Google has been taking steps toward protecting user privacy via the Privacy Sandbox initiative. Essentially, the Privacy Sandbox initiative aims to create technologies that protect user privacy online, while still enabling companies and developers to build digital business. The Privacy Sandbox is vying to reduce cross-site and cross-app tracking while attempting to keep online content freely accessible.

Third-party cookies, for those who are unaware, are generated and placed on a user’s device by a different website than the one a user is currently visiting. They are used primarily for online-advertising purposes and all users have likely run into them in one way or another. For example, let’s say a user has been browsing for a new pair of shoes. After browsing a shoe store website, the user visits another website where they promptly see advertisements attached for the shoes they were just browsing. This is an example of third-party cookies in action and has commonly been perceived as an invasion in user privacy.

Some internet browsers and platforms have already taken action to remove or restrict third-party cookies. Firefox and Safari, for example, have both implemented settings to phase out third-party cookies. However, Google Chrome makes up an estimated 65% of browser activity and as such, will provide an opportunity to evaluate the mass effects of third-party cookie removal on functionality and advertisement.

The Privacy Sandbox takes the position that developers and businesses should be able to profit off their sites and apps, as well as take part in targeted advertising, but it hopes to create an ecosystem that permits this activity without relying on online tracking identifiers. Moreover, Google is concerned with the effect on the browser’s critical functionality if third-party cookies are disabled without further analysis. Hence, the initial 1% rollout to approximately 30 million Google users.

Google’s current timeline has third-party cookies phased out by Q3 in 2024, but we will continue to monitor and provide updates on any significant developments

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