Users demand more privacy – including transparency, selection and control over the use of their data. There is no denying that the web and advertising ecosystem needs to evolve to meet these needs. Various browsers have already responded and are blocking third-party cookies. Mozilla’s Firefox and Apple’s Safari block them by default. Google is now announcing that the Chrome browser should no longer support third-party cookies in the future. The end should come within the next two years, until then it will be gradually changed. Google wants to prevent a radical step. This would have “unintended consequences that can have a negative impact on both users and the web ecosystem”.
Appropriate hasty approaches would undermine the business model of many ad-financed websites and promote opaque techniques such as fingerprinting, which can limit privacy and user control. “We believe that we as a community can and must do better,” said Google. Fingerprinting is a tracking method to identify a user when surfing without cookies.
Google therefore only wants to block cookies under certain conditions – that is, only when there are attractive alternatives. One that Google has already initiated is the privacy sandbox. At the same time, the group is working on technologies and new anti-fingerprinting measures to detect and contain hidden tracking and similar processes. These should be introduced later this year.
As announced a long time ago, Chrome will also roll out the SameSite update from February. Website or platform operators must explicitly specify which third-party cookies may be used on other websites. Cookies that do not contain a SameSite label are only treated as first-party cookies. Cookies that are marked for use by third parties must be accessible via HTTPS. This should make third-party cookies more secure. According to Google, users receive more precise cookie settings via the browser.
That is behind the privacy sandbox
Google launched the Privacy Sandbox initiative in August 2019. It aims to ensure targeting and personalized advertising as well as data protection. Because Google faces a dilemma: More and more users are relying on ad blockers and no longer want to see ads. Tracking of many advertising networks is also prevented. In addition, more and more browser manufacturers are implementing increasingly strict privacy options.
This becomes a problem for Google, because the company operates a browser with Chrome itself and continues to earn its money primarily from its advertising network.
The aim of the open source initiative is therefore to make the web more private and secure for users, while at the same time supporting publishers and advertisers.
“After an initial dialogue with the web community, we are confident that privacy and initiatives such as the privacy sandbox can maintain a ‘healthy’, ad-financed web that eliminates the need for third-party cookies,” said Justin Schuh, Chrome Engineering Director.