The Way The Cookie Crumbles: Google Announces First Steps in Finally Disabling Third-Party Cookies

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It appears the chefs in the Google kitchen are prepared to offer the first samples for what the future of online advertising might taste like. (And, yes, cookies are finally finding their way off the menu.)

Last week, Google announced plans to disable third-party cookies for 1% of Chrome users and migrate those users to Privacy Sandbox starting early next year. 

As Anthony Chavez, Privacy Sandbox’s VP, writes in Google’s update, this one-percent plan would “support developers in conducting real-world experiments that assess the readiness and effectiveness of their products without third-party cookies.” 

A full cookie deprecation for all Chrome users would be reached later in 2024, ultimately — as Google has been promising/threatening for years — grouping users into cohorts of similar browsers for the sake of advertising rather than tracking users individually. “This could fundamentally transform how any company makes money on the internet,” Gizmodo’s Thomas Germain writes, “and just about everyone, whether they love privacy or love targeted ads, has complaints.”

Gizmodo spells out those complaints, ranging from the existential threat these changes pose to data-dependent businesses to the new privacy concerns these changes create in, as Germain simplifies, turning “Chrome and Android into tracking tools.” 

Earlier this month, DoubleVerify surveyed advertisers and publishers about which solutions their organizations believe are most promising in solving their cookie dependence. For advertisers, only “advertiser first-party data activation” (49%) was more promising than Google Topics (37.9%); for publishers, it was the least-favored solution.

(Source: DoubleVerify)

“One way to look at it is Google is attempting [to] rewrite the rules of the internet with Privacy Sandbox,” Germain writes. “It certainly demonstrates Google’s supremacy. People get upset when you start wielding that kind of power, and convincing the world that everything will be fine is a delicate act with a $500 billion industry hanging in the balance.”

Soon enough, developers will see that delicate act in action. Google will launch Chrome 115 later this year, and, with it, the ability for developers to test out Privacy Sandbox’s measurement APIs in real-time. While TechCrunch points out that users have been able to turn on Privacy Sandbox trials for testing, being able to conduct those tests at scale is “obviously quite different.”

“With the launch of Chrome 115, most adtech developers should be able to start testing their solutions at scale,” TechCrunch’s Frederic Lardinois writes. “At that point, Privacy Sandbox features like Protected Audience, Attribution Reporting and the Topics API will be locked in.”

Google’s statement notes that these plans were developed in consultation with the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), creating guidelines which Lardinois writes “should ensure that there are no self-preferencing practices in how it implements Privacy Sandbox that could give it an advantage over its competitors.” 

“As none of the competitors seem particularly keen on adopting Privacy Sandbox, the implications for the overall web advertising ecosystem remain to be seen.”


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