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Google pushes back plans to block third-party cookies in Chrome until 2023

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Google has delayed the implementation of controversial changes to third-party-cookies in its Chrome Browser to 2023, following a backlash from rival advertisers.

Google’s ultimate intention is to ditch third-party cookies in its Chrome web browser in favour of its own “privacy sandbox”. Traditional third-party cookies allow advertisers to track individuals across the websites they visit in order to serve them personalised ads outside of Google’s ecosystem.

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has expressed concern that the move could distort the market and said it secured commitments from Google that its new privacy sandbox proposals will not favour its in-house advertising platform over rival firms.

Nevertheless, Google has shifted the date for the introduction of the new sandbox from January 2022 to late 2023, assuming the CMA signs off on the proposals.

“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,” Vinay Goel, privacy engineering director for Chrome, wrote in a blog post.

“This is important to avoid jeopardising the business models of many web publishers which support freely available content. And by providing privacy-preserving technology, we as an industry can help ensure that cookies are not replaced with alternative forms of individual tracking and discourage the rise of covert approaches like fingerprinting.”

The CMA said it was consulting on whether to accept Google’s commitments and, in that context, it had been informed of the proposed changes to the timeline.

“If the commitments are accepted they become legally binding, promoting competition in digital markets, helping to protect the ability of online publishers to raise money through advertising and safeguarding users’ privacy,” a spokesperson said.

Both the US Department of Justice and the EU’s competition commission are reportedly also investigating Chrome and the privacy sandbox.

Earlier this week, the European Commission said it was beginning an investigation into alleged anti-competitive behaviour by Google, with a focus on whether the company violated competition rules by giving preferential treatment to its online ad tech services.

Critics have questioned the effectiveness of alternatives to third-party-cookies, believing that Google can only benefit from their elimination because it can continue collecting similar data through YouTube, search and its other popular systems, unlike other advertisers.

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