Ruchika Jha

Google commences global test to phase out third-party cookies

The company plans to deactivate third-party cookie tracking for all Chrome users by Q3 2024.

Google has officially commenced its plan to phase out third-party cookies as of today, January 4, 2024. It will disable third-party cookies for 1% of users globally for testing purposes, with a gradual expansion to 100% of its users by the third quarter of 2024.

On December 14, 2023, the company announced that it will also begin testing Tracking Protection, a new feature that limits cross-site tracking by restricting website access to third-party cookies by default. According to Google, it is a quintessential milestone in their Privacy Sandbox initiative for discontinuing third-party cookies.

Participants for Tracking Protection will be selected randomly and will be notified once they open Chrome on either desktop or Android. As they browse the web, third-party cookies will be restricted by default, curtailing its ability to track users’ data across different websites. Instead of cookies, Chrome will locally categorise users’ interests on their devices. These categories will not be accessible to websites.

Upon visiting a website, Chrome will share these category labels to provide publishers and advertisers valuable insights for contextually relevant ads and content recommendations. The specific sites people visit will remain discreet, offering a more privacy-centric approach.

Third-party cookies are often used by advertisers to track users across different websites, creating a profile of their online behaviour. This practice raises privacy issues as users may not be fully aware of the extent to which their online activities are being monitored and shared.

Google unveiled the general availability of the Privacy Sandbox on September 7, 2023, fulfilling the commitments it made to address privacy concerns since the initiative's inception in 2019. After the announcement, Privacy Sandbox garnered a variety of responses from experts and regulators. Some people viewed it as a mere substitute for third-party cookies.

According to Google's blog published on December 21, 2023, the goal of the Privacy Sandbox initiative is to reduce cross-site tracking while preserving essential functionality and ensuring widespread accessibility of online content and services.

The task involves deprecating and eliminating third-party cookies, which are widely used in various functions such as sign-in processes, fraud protection, advertising, and the integration of diverse third-party content into websites.

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