In a strange fashion, Google has opted to protect the data and the privacy of Chrome users by announcing that the Google Chrome browser will be phasing out the use of third-party, cross-website cookies.
What’s the big deal with third-party cookies?
Cross-website cookies have long been used by advertisers.
The fact these will now be gone in Google Chrome is not insignificant news. Google Chrome is a dominant browser on desktop and mobile devices.
The impact is that the data that advertisers get will be restricted significantly.
Third-party cookies follow people from site to site, tracing people across multiple sites for a long period of time. It could be weeks, it could be months.
Google will be using a Privacy Sandbox, which allows advertisers to gain personalisation and other forms of data. But it does strip out some of the more personal data.
On the Chromium blog, there is more information on what this entails:
Users are demanding greater privacy–including transparency, choice and control over how their data is used–and it’s clear the web ecosystem needs to evolve to meet these increasing demands. Some browsers have reacted to these concerns by blocking third-party cookies, but we believe this has unintended consequences that can negatively impact both users and the web ecosystem. By undermining the business model of many ad-supported websites, blunt approaches to cookies encourage the use of opaque techniques such as fingerprinting (an invasive workaround to replace cookies), which can actually reduce user privacy and control. We believe that we as a community can, and must, do better…
We’ll also continue our work to make current web technologies more secure and private. As we previously announced, Chrome will limit insecure cross-site tracking starting in February, by treating cookies that don’t include a SameSite label as first-party only, and require cookies labeled for third-party use to be accessed over HTTPS. This will make third-party cookies more secure and give users more precise browser cookie controls. At the same time, we’re developing techniques to detect and mitigate covert tracking and workarounds by launching new anti-fingerprinting measures to discourage these kinds of deceptive and intrusive techniques, and we hope to launch these measures later this year.Posted by Justin Schuh – Director, Chrome Engineering
Google’s stance is the fact that simply blocking cookies within browsers, such as what Firefox and Safari do, leads to fingerprinting tracking, which undermines the fundamentals of advertising. This would have a big impact on publishers and other businesses, as ads become much less relevant and ad revenue goes down which inevitably then impacts business.
The Privacy Sandbox hopes to ensure that conversion measurement and targeting is not affected greatly, while all the same protecting the public’s privacy and personal data. Ads are delivered to people with similar attributes, without involving individual data leaving the browser in question. Conversions will also be able to be tracked within Chrome, and advertisers still get this information via an API but without individual user information.
Beginning in February 2020, cookies that do not include a SameSite label will be treated the same as first-party only and require cookies for third-party use to be accessed over HTTPS.