Google further delays the depreciation of third-party cookies until 2025

May 9, 2024
Person typing

On 23 April 2024, Google announced that the phasing out of third-party cookies from its Chrome browser will be delayed until the start of 2025. The process is part of the Privacy Sandbox initiative, which aims to create greater privacy for users across the web by reducing cross-site tracking and removing third-party cookies. Google’s full Privacy Sandbox Progress Report for Q1 2024 can be found here.

What are third-party cookies?

Cookies are small text files placed on a user’s browser when visiting a website.

  • First-party cookies. A first-party cookie is created directly by the website you visit. These cookies allow the website owner to collect analytics data and remember user settings for a more personalised experience (e.g. save your language settings or items in a shopping basket).
  • Third-party cookies. Third-party cookies are created by a website that is separate from the website that you visit. These cookies can track a user across websites and are primarily used for online advertising (e.g. to gather data about a user’s browsing habits and interests and so present that user with more personalised ads).

Google's Privacy Sandbox initiative involves developing other measures designed to support ad functionalities, without relying on third-party tracking cookies, with the aim of giving users more control over how their data is captured and used.

Why the delay?

Google originally announced its intention to phase out third-party cookies from Chrome in January 2020. However, in January 2021, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched an investigation into Google's proposals over concerns that they would cause online advertising spending to become even more concentrated on Google, and so weaken competition and harm consumers who ultimately pay for the cost of online advertising. As a result, Google agreed to a set of legally binding commitments with the CMA to ensure that the Privacy Sandbox benefits consumers and that anti-competition issues are addressed under the supervision of the CMA.[1]

This is the third time that Google has announced a delay in its third-party cookie depreciation. In its latest statement, Google states that the reason behind this delay is the CMA needing "sufficient time to review all evidence including results from industry tests".[2]

Provided that Google reaches an agreement with the CMA (and the ICO), it is predicted that third-party cookies will start to be phased out in early 2025 – but that's not a commitment, and timelines may yet change again.

Ad industry response

According to IAB Europe's February 2024 report on the Digital Advertising Industry's Readiness for the Post Third-Party Cookie Era, the majority of the digital ad industry seems to agree that the phasing out of cookies is the right thing to do, although understandably many are keen to be done with the ambiguity that has been created by the multiple delays. However, those who have complained that the new tools replacing cookies are difficult to use and have several flaws will likely be relieved that further testing will now be carried out.

Perhaps, more importantly, advertisers now have more time to potentially harness the emerging power of AI to leverage first-party and other data in readiness for a cookie-less world – although of course the use of AI is not without its own challenges!

Caroline CopelandCaroline Copeland
Caroline Copeland
Caroline Copeland
Catherine CloverCatherine Clover
Catherine Clover
Catherine Clover
Trainee Solicitor

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