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Google Delays Chrome’s Cookie-Blocking for 2 Years

By Analytics, Insights & News, Privacy, SEO No Comments

Google announced the company is delaying its plans to block third-party cookies until late 2023 as it reconciles the challenge of protecting user privacy while still enabling advertisers to deliver personalized ads.

Chrome’s Engineering Director Vinay Goel said in a blog post:

We need to move at a responsible pace, allowing sufficient time for public discussion on the right solutions and for publishers and the advertising industry to migrate their services. This is important to avoid jeopardizing the business models of many web publishers which support freely available content.”

One part of Google’s rationale for pushing back its plan is centered around concerns that blocking cookies now might encourage tracking companies to use more controversial tactics like fingerprinting to gather browser configuration details.

Meanwhile, the company has faced backlash around both its use of cookies across the web and its plans to block them. In fact, earlier this week, the European Union said it is investigating Google’s plan to remove cookies as part of a wide-ranging inquiry into allegations that Google has abused its prominent role in advertising technology.

And, The Wall Street Journal reported that Google has separately pledged to give the U.K.’s competition watchdog at least 60 days’ notice before removing cookies to review and potentially impose changes to its plan, as part of an offer to settle a similar investigation. That probe stemmed from complaints that Chrome’s removal of cookies would give an advantage to ads on Google’s own products, like YouTube or Search, where Google will still be able to do individual-level targeting.

In the U.S., Google’s cookie-replacement plan was raised in a December antitrust lawsuit against the company brought by Texas and nine other U.S. states.

Google has been testing several new tools to replace various functions of third-party cookies, as part of what it calls a privacy sandbox. The first such replacement technology, dubbed federated learning of cohorts, or Floc, is intended to allow advertisers to target cohorts of users with similar interests, rather than individuals, in order to protect their privacy.

Acronym’s SVP of Performance Media, Gregg Manias reacted to the news:

“I’m not really shocked by this, we have seen over time that privacy search engines like Duck Duck Go blocked it, then we saw large publishers like New York times block it, then we saw competitor browsers like Firefox block it, I think the death of this plan by Google was last week when Amazon blocked FlOC right before prime day.”

Google, of course, plays a central role in the online advertising ecosystem as the company owns the dominant tools used to broker the sale of ads across the web. Cookies, small bits of code stored in web browsers to track users across the web, are widely used in the industry, including in Google’s Chrome browser, which has 65% of the market globally.

Acronym’s EVP of Analytics, Stephanie Hart added:

“Google needs a way to provide advertisers with the ability to target users and it doesn’t seem that the current version of FLOC is it. Google is having a difficult time balancing the demand from regulators and users for privacy against the need for revenue. The market will continue to evolve as Google develops solutions to this dilemma.”

Meanwhile, as the Search giant seeks to find a resolution, Acronym’s SVP of SEO, Winston Burton recently shared some of the other ways marketers can capture customer information through permission-based tactics, including content which, when done right, captures users’ interest at every stage of the funnel.

Google said it expects to complete testing of all of its new cookie-replacement technologies, and integrate them into Chrome before late 2022. Then the advertising industry will have a nine-month period to migrate their services, during which time Google will monitor adoption and feedback. The final phaseout of cookies will happen over three months in late 2023, the company said, adding that it will publish a more detailed timeline.

In the meantime, if you need assistance planning for these changes, please contact us. Our experts can help you navigate these ever-changing waters so you deliver the personalized experiences your customers expect in a way that still respects their right to privacy.