Google is about to launch its grand plan to block third-party cookies in Chrome that many websites use to track your activity across the web for profit.
Starting on January 4th, Google will start testing its new Tracking Protection feature that will eventually restrict website access to third-party cookies by default. It will come to a very small subset of Chrome users at the start, specifically to one percent of users globally. Afterward, Google plans to phase out the use of third-party cookies for all users in the second half of 2024.
If you’re randomly selected to try Tracking Protection, Google will notify you when opening Chrome on desktop or Android. If there are issues detected by Chrome while you’re browsing, a prompt will appear asking if you’d like to temporarily re-enable third-party cookies for the site.
Google has been working on a way to eliminate the need for cookies in Chrome since 2020, later rolling it into its Privacy Sandbox initiative. The company’s broad idea is to relay anonymized user browsing data to advertisers, which in turn can use Google-provided APIs to conduct their ads business in a way that better protect user privacy. The “Topics API” launched in July for developers to begin testing, and became available for Chrome users to try in September.
Google’s approach to cookie-free advertising sounds helpful to both privacy-focused users and the overall advertiser business in comparison to other web browsers that take more stone-walled approaches to block cross-site tracking. However, Google’s competitors and privacy advocates aren’t fully convinced about its cookie-replacing tech.
Meanwhile, regulators like the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is keeping an eye on Google’s new Tracking Protection to ensure it doesn’t give the company an unfair advantage in selling its own ads. With that in mind, Google says it’s hedging that H2 2024 target for turning the feature on globally in case it needs time to address “any remaining competition concerns.”