- Google in the next two years will block a common way marketers track the online activities of Chrome browser users, the search giant said in a blog post. The plan aims to protect consumer privacy, and will prevent advertisers and ad networks from connecting browser cookies to websites they don't operate, possibly limiting ad targeting. Cookies are small data files that help websites and advertisers to collect information about internet users.
- Despite the two-year deadline, Google won't restrict third-party cookies until an alternative technology is developed to protect the internet users' privacy. The company in August proposed a "privacy sandbox" to develop standards to support online advertising while giving people better data controls.
- As previously announced, Google next month will introduce several ways to limit cross-site tracking by enforcing new SameSite rules and requiring a secure HTTP connection for access to cookies labeled for third-party use. Google also is working to prevent online fingerprinting, per its blog post. Fingerprinting gathers technical data from web browsers to help track internet users.
Google's plan to drop support for third-party cookies has been expected since last year amid announcements that included its proposed privacy sandbox, but the two-year deadline is new and could compound on the already high pressures impacting ad-tech vendors, publishers and advertisers who rely on cookies. Shares of some ad-tech firms, including Criteo, dropped on the Google news, according to CNBC.
Unless a new technology is adopted by a wide variety of industries, Google's plan will likely have far-reaching effects on digital advertising. The Chrome browser has a 70% market share on desktop computers and 41% on mobile devices, per data compiled by Statista, giving the search giant considerable control over how marketers reach online audiences.
Google's plan likely will make marketers more reliant on first-party data, including information gathered by the biggest digital ad platforms, Matt Keiser, founder and CEO of email marketing platform LiveIntent, said in a statement shared with Marketing Dive.
"Companies like Facebook, Amazon and Google will continue to thrive because they continue to have access to first-party data," he said. "The agencies and ad-tech providers and those who have been mastering third-party data will lose their privileged position."
Google's plan comes as more consumers say they're concerned about personal data privacy, even if they're mostly unaware of privacy regulations and how their data is collected. The European Union was one of the first regions to strengthen privacy laws with the enactment of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018. In the U.S., the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) took effect this month, although the state is offering a six-month grace period to give companies more time to comply with its new data protection rules. The CCPA likely will have a far-reaching effect as it applies to any company that conducts business with California residents.
Google's move follows similar efforts by Apple's Safari and Mozilla's Firefox to restrict tracking cookies as part of their privacy controls. However, those companies don't depend on advertising as their primary source of revenue, as is the case with Google.
Publishers and advertisers worry that Google's changes will give the search giant an unfair advantage, given that it can still collect data from its search engine and other platforms like YouTube for ad targeting, The Wall Street Journal reported. The move may also make the search giant more vulnerable in an ongoing antitrust investigation into its possibly anti-competitive business practices.
Google's plan wouldn't interfere with the use of first-party cookies that marketers collect through the informed consent of internet users. Marketers can still use that technology to save customers' login information so they don't have to re-enter a password each time they visit an online store, as one example. Those cookies help companies like Walmart and Amazon to personalize the shopping experience.