Google Further Delays Cookie Phase-Out
Google late yesterday said it plans to further delay its phase-out of third-party tracking cookies in its Chrome browser to the second half of 2024.
The company had originally planned to eliminate third-party tracking cookies in Chrome and to roll out an alternative, which it is calling the Privacy Sandbox API, this year. It has pushed those deadlines back several times already, saying it needs more time to test the Privacy Sandbox APIs.
"By Q3 2023, we expect the Privacy Sandbox APIs to be launched and generally available in Chrome," Anthony Chavez, Google's vice president of Privacy Sandbox, said in a statement late on Wednesday.
Google has already released several trial versions of the Privacy Sandbox APIs and next month will expand those trials to millions of users globally.
In the meantime, the decision by Google to delay action on third-party cookies will continue to have an impact on the entire digital advertising ecosystem. Marketers have been preparing for a world without cookies for some time, and the delay just leaves them in limbo longer.
Apple and Mozilla have already disabled cookies in their Safari and Firefox browsers respectively.
However, with nearly 70 percent of all web browsing taking place in Chrome, "the impacts to advertisers and the potential impacts for consumer data usage are much greater," says Matt Engstrom, vice president of marketing at Digital Remedy, an ad tech platform provider.
"As much as this announcement is a blessing for advertisers and partners looking to cement a strategy for tracking and measurement beyond the cookie, it also creates ambiguity around when this preparedness needs to be finalized," Engstrom laments. "Companies placing development resources into initiatives such as independent web IDs may now face an additional setback as those alternatives aren't required in the short term as Google continues to push out the deadline."
Zack Wenthe, evangelist at ad tech provider Treasure Data, agrees.
"Google still hasn't rolled out an effective replacement to third-party party cookies, and their partners are getting worried, and clearly that concern has worked," he says."The need for an effective privacy-first solution is important, but there's a lot of money at stake for Google, and they're stuck between doing what's right for the individual vs. what's right for Google.
"Even though Google has extended the life of third- party cookies, the entire market is moving to a stronger privacy-first approach. This change will take some pressure off the market, but legislation and other technical changes are still a reality," Wenthe adds.
Many other marketing and ad tech executives see the end of cookies as inevitable and suggest that companies don't delay plans for a cookieless future for too long.
Erin Madorsky, U.S. chief strategy officer of global programmatic media partner MiQ, says "having a deadline, even a moving one, has actually motivated a great deal of innovation in developing alternative approaches that simultaneously meet marketer needs and improve upon consumer privacy consideration."
The industry, she adds, "seems to have coalesced around the importance of changed practices, and in that regard, I don't think the progress will dissipate simply because the deadline has been postponed.
"The extended time frame specifically affords more time in the arena of measurement, which still has room to develop. Marketers now just have more time to acclimate, experiment, and perfect adjusted approaches for driving campaign success utilizing privacy-centric methods."
"Advertisers and partners still need to be prepared for the inevitable. Leaning into audience and content targeting and the ability to track campaigns and unify devices beyond the cookie is still a good strategy as Google will inevitably solidify a deadline and end 3rd-party cookie usage," Engstrom concludes.
Melinda Han Williams, chief data scientist at Dstillery, sees a much larger advertising industry move "toward more privacy-safe digital advertising technologies."
Advertisers, she says, "have started to accept this shift over the past two years, and it has spurred impressive innovation, especially around AI-based, privacy-friendly approaches to targeting. The real winners of the delay are advertisers who are now squarely in the driver's seat."
Kelly Anderson, senior vice president and head of data privacy and compliance at Emodo, says Google's delay "proves that the industry should take a step back from focusing solely on identity solutions and think creatively about ID-less solutions altogether. There is an opportunity for businesses building and supporting alternative ID-less targeting solutions, like those using artificial intelligence and dynamic creative, to leverage this extra time to understand what's really working and perfect their solutions."
Ivan Markman, chief business officer at Yahoo, has his own ideas about cookieless alternatives. "The future of identity lies in the ability to leverage direct, consumer-consented sources and to be smarter about signals that are not attached to a consumer's identity. While any delay gives the industry more time to test and learn, adapting solutions today brings greater reach across all inventory, with or without IDs," he says.
Eric Vreeland, vice president of marketing at People Data Labs, sees yet another option.."Fortunately, data-as-a-service vendors can provide an alternative today. Marketing tools powered by alternative data sources will allow businesses to continue reaching new customers and creating personalized messages and experiences without relying on cookies that track and surveil online behavior," he says.
For Jessica Hogue, general manager of measurement and industries at Innovid, moving ads to connected TV is a real alternative. "CTV has the upper hand in that it's removed from the Google battle and viewership continues to grow astronomically. With this in mind, CTV has the potential to be a more effective and lucrative channel as marketers have an opportunity within emerging environments to get ahead of any measurement issues and proactively address identity," she says.
As Google continues its work on the Privacy Sandbox APIs, it pledges to listen to all feedback from developers and others conducting the tests. It hopes to have the final product generally available in Chrome in the third quarter of 2023, with the cookie phaseout to follow in 2024, if no further delays are imposed.