Google’s tracking protection rolls out to select users on January 4

Chrome’s new feature has default cross-site monitoring restrictions
Google’s tracking protection rolls out to select users on January 4
Google eyes to eliminate third-party cookies before 2024 ends

Underscoring its commitment to improving privacy protection, Google (GOOGL.O) announced its plan to start testing a new feature within its Chrome browser. The Google Chrome tracking protection feature will roll out to 1 percent of users worldwide on January 4. 

With this, select users will have a browsing experience that boasts default restrictions on cross-site tracking. This move aims to curtail the use of third-party cookies that advertisers employ to monitor consumers.

Moreover, the tech giant intends to eliminate third-party cookies entirely by the latter half of 2024.

Eliminating third-party cookies

Cookies are files that enable websites and advertisers to recognize individual web users. It also allows them to monitor the users’s online activities.

Since 2020, Google has actively worked on reducing Chrome’s reliance on cookies, making it the central theme of its Privacy Sandbox initiative. The upcoming launch of the Google tracking protection builds on that development.

According to Google, “The Privacy Sandbox initiative aims to create technologies that both protect people’s privacy online and give companies and developers tools to build thriving digital businesses.”

“The Privacy Sandbox reduces cross-site and cross-app tracking while helping to keep online content and services free for all,” it added.

The overarching goal is to send anonymized user browsing data to advertisers, enabling them to conduct ad business with enhanced user privacy through Google-provided APIs. The “Topics API,” introduced in July for developers to test, became accessible to Chrome users in September.

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Concerns raised

Google’s cookie-free approach to advertising appears beneficial for privacy-conscious users. Nevertheless, competitors, advocates and other parties remain skeptical about it.

In particular, advertisers have expressed concerns over the impact of losing cookies in the world’s most widely used browser. They argued that it could limit their ability to gather personalized ad data, heightening their dependence on Google’s user databases.

Moreover, BofA Global Research noted that the phase-out of cookies could shift power dynamics toward media agencies. Specifically, those delivering proprietary insights to advertisers could benefit substantially.

Google’s timeline of turning off third-party cookies by the latter half of 2204 is also contingent on addressing antitrust concerns raised by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

The UK watchdog has been scrutinizing Google’s plan to limit support for certain cookies in Chrome. According to the CMA, Google’s move could disrupt the competition in the digital advertising landscape. It also closely monitors Google’s advertising segment, a crucial revenue stream for the company.

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