What should replace cookies?
Google announced last week that it is pushing back the timeline of its plans to phase out third-party cookies in the Chrome browser until 2023. The delay provides more time to come up with an alternative method to help advertisers make money online off targeted ads amid pleas for stronger user-privacy protections.
Google previously said it would support cookies — small bits of code stored in web browsers to track users’ activities across the web so that they can be served targeted ads — through the end of 2021.
“We need to move at a responsible pace, allowing sufficient time for public discussion on the right solutions and for publishers and the advertising industry to migrate their services,” Chrome engineering director Vinay Goel said in a blog post. “This is important to avoid jeopardizing the business models of many web publishers which support freely available content.”
Other browsers, like Apple’s Safari and Mozilla Firefox, already block all third-party cookies. As the most-used desktop browser and dominant player in search and ads, however, Google’s steps to move past cookies face intense scrutiny, both from advertisers wanting easier tracking and privacy advocates wanting less.
Google earlier this year launched Federated Learning of Cohorts, or FLoC, a solution by which the web browser categorizes users with similar interests, rather than individuals, in order to protect users’ privacy. The group identifier is used to personalize/target advertisements. The delay was due in part to some negative feedback FLoC has received on its likely effectiveness and privacy risks.
Paul Bannister, chief strategy officer at blog network CafeMedia, told The Wall Street Journal that since the vast majority of digital advertising is powered by cookies, “it’s critical that the replacement technologies get things right. It’s also critical to make sure that even more money doesn’t go to the tech giants in the process.”
Some major brands told Advertising Age that they had hoped the arrival of a cookie replacement plan would have helped the advertising industry move past legitimate privacy and data security concerns. Jonathan Halvorson, VP, consumer experience, Mondeléz, told the publication, “I want cookies to deprecate because it will advance other proposals and get things moving. Rolling it back to a later time will keep us in a purgatory of mediocrity.”
- An updated timeline for Privacy Sandbox milestones – Google
- Google Delays Cookie Removal to Late 2023 – The Wall Street Journal
- Why Google’s Delay Of The Death Of The Cookie Is Dividing The Advertising Industry – Advertising Age
- Google delays Chrome’s cookie-blocking privacy plan by nearly 2 years – CNET
- Google delays blocking third-party cookies in Chrome until 2023 – The Verge
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Should Google’s delay be seen as a positive or negative for retail marketing teams? Do you think the industry can find an ideal replacement for third-party cookies that would balance privacy concerns and online targeting opportunities?