• July 7, 2021
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Google Delays Cookie Phaseout

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Google announced June 24 that it will delay plans to block third-party cookies in its Chrome browser until late 2023, giving it time to figure out how to protect consumer privacy while still providing web publishers a way to make money.

In January of last year, the search giant said it would replace third-party cookies, which advertisers use to track consumers on the web and target them with ads, with more privacy-conscious technologies. That move was supposed to have come to fruition by the end of 2021.

Apple already blocks third-party cookies in its Safari browser, and Mozilla does the same with its Firefox web browser. Other competitors, including Microsoft’s Edge and Brave Software’s Brave, have also taken steps to phase out tracking of individual’s browsing. Consumers can also download browser extensions, like Ghostery, DuckDuckGo, Privacy Badger, and uBlock Origin, to block trackers.

Google said the two-year delay will give it, and its advertisers, more time to develop and test alternatives to cookies.

“While there’s considerable progress with this initiative, it’s become clear that more time is needed across the ecosystem to get this right,” Chrome engineering director Vinay Goel said in a blog post.

“We need to move at a responsible pace. This will allow sufficient time for public discussion on the right solutions, continued engagement with regulators, and for publishers and the advertising industry to migrate their services,” he explained further.

Goel also said Google plans to continue working with the web community “to create more private approaches to key areas, including ad measurement, delivering relevant ads and content, and fraud detection.” Goel laid out a new timeline for Google’s moves around third-party cookies, saying the goal is to have the key technologies in place by late 2022 so the developer community can start adopting them. Chrome could then phase out third-party cookies over a three-month period, starting in mid-2023 and ending in late 2023, he said.

Google’s cookie project is part of a larger initiative called the Privacy Sandbox.

“We believe that the Privacy Sandbox will provide the best privacy protections for everyone. By ensuring that the ecosystem can support their businesses without tracking individuals across the web, we can all ensure that free access to content continues. And because of the importance of this mission, we must take time to evaluate the new technologies, gather feedback and iterate to ensure they meet our goals for both privacy and performance, and give all developers time to follow the best path for privacy,” Goel concluded.

The delay, of course, came as welcome news across the advertising ecosystem, with many also seeing the eventual elimination of third-party cookies as inevitable.

“Moving away from third-party cookies and toward first-party data puts consumers in control of how their data is used, while companies can deliver real-time experiences that are most relevant to consumers. Google’s delay gives brands more time, but it won’t change this trend,” says Amit Ahuja, vice president of Experience Cloud product and strategy at Adobe.

“First-party data is the future of brand-consumer relationships built on trust, not just for advertising, but for all digital experiences.”

“This delay is good for the industry, but the fact is that cookies are still going away,” adds Travis Clinger, senior vice president of addressability and ecosystem at LiveRamp.

“While this is good news for the industry as a whole, it should not deter us from moving beyond the third-party cookie as the main identifier for internet users,” says Kasper Skou, CEO and cofounder of Semasio. “The elephant in the room is that 40 percent of internet users are not identifiable via cookies today. We need to continue the great work, which has already gone into the future of data-driven advertising, and we need to do it on a basis that makes the consumer an equal and informed partner in the ecosystem.”

“Google’s decision to delay the depreciation of third-party cookies is a responsible one. It’s excellent news for both publishers and advertisers, and this added runway will create a better environment to partner on scalable solutions that benefit all parties,” says Alexander Knudsen, vice president of solutions engineering at Amobee.

“Google may be giving marketers more time, but consumers aren’t waiting—they want transparency and value in use of their data now,” says Anne Hunter, vice president of product marketing at DISQO.

Stephen Bonino, associate account director at Adlucent, urges advertisers to use the extra time wisely. He suggests they do the following:

  • Ensure you are in full compliance with updates to privacy regulations.
  • Review your approach to measurement and your tracked conversions, considering the shorter look-back windows available going forward.
  • Understand the tools and best practices available for each of the unique social networks, ideally through the lens of how your audience engages with each.
  • Stay up to date on creative and measurement solutions and work with your advertising team to effectively incorporate them into your evolving social strategy.
  • Keep in mind that platforms are actively developing new features designed to align with the interests and behavior of their user base, allowing advertisers to experiment with unique and purpose-built touchpoints.

“Our message to the industry is not to let the foot off the gas and instead continue moving full speed toward adopting people-based, authenticated solutions,” LiveRamp’s Clinger adds. “The most important thing is to recognize the urgency is still there.… Publishers and marketers should control their destiny, and the only way to do so is by relying on trusted consumer relationships enabled through people-based buying. Those who act now will be much more prepared.” 

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