Third-party cookies: Google postpones their deletion to the end of 2023

The protection of privacy on the internet is a major concern of internet users and regulatory authorities. It is in this context that Google announced in January 2020 its desire to eventually delete third-party cookies from its Chrome browser. The date was then set at 2022. 

Meanwhile, the CMA ( Competition and Markets Authority ), the UK’s competition regulator, launched an antitrust investigation against Google in January 2021. The CMA feared the impact of the deletion of third-party cookies and the increasing influence of the American company on the online advertising industry. Thus, on June 11, the regulatory authority announced that it would play a role in the design and development of the proposals developed under the Google Privacy Sandbox. The objective then was to ensure that they did not distort competition.

Thus, on June 24, Google announced that it was postponing the deletion of third-party cookies until the end of 2023. This period will allow it to prepare for the transition in a calm and constructive manner, taking into account the feedback from the CMA and advertisers.

Third-party cookies and first-party cookies: what are we talking about? 

To begin with, let’s get back to the heart of the matter, namely third-party cookies. It is indeed important to distinguish between two types of cookies: first party cookies and third party cookies.

First party cookies

Above all, cookies, whatever they are, are small text files. So-called first party cookies are stored by the website visited. Their goal is to record certain information from users to personalize their experience. They can, for example, retain the customer’s identifier to simplify authentication.

Third party cookies 

Third-party cookies are placed by third parties who are not the site visited by the user. These collect information and are commonly used in advertising. The information collected is used to establish audience measurement statistics. They are very useful for measuring the effectiveness of digital campaigns and allowing their optimization. 

However, users fear that these cookies will become tracking tools that track their activity everywhere and all the time on the Web, without their consent.

Evolving legislation 

For this reason, regulatory authorities such as the CNIL (National Commission for Informatics and Freedoms) are seizing on the subject. 

Thus, article 82 of the Data Protection Act transposed article 5.3 of European Directive 2022/58 / CE “Private life and electronic communications” into French law. This article obliges all websites in France to obtain the consent of Internet users concerning cookies. 

Before collecting information, Web sites must therefore today display in a clear and visible manner a banner comprising a text of the type “Accept or refuse” allowing the visitor to make an informed choice. Note, however, that this does not apply to cookies considered strictly necessary such as session cookies.

Why does Google decide to postpone the end of third-party cookies? 

If everything seems to go in the direction of a control or even a deletion of third-party cookies, Google prefers to delay. However, the company is not turning back. Rather, the goal here is to take your time to do things sensibly. In this way, advertisers as well as publishers will be able to adapt to these new standards.

According to Google, this delay will make it possible to:

  • Create a public debate on the solutions to be provided
  • Take time to ensure continued engagement with regulators
  • Allow a transition period for publishers and advertisers 

The idea is therefore not to rush the various players. This is all the more important for businesses and publishers who support content that is available for free. It is essential for them to adapt to a cookie-less world gradually so as not to see their economic model collapse. 

A necessary decision

Obviously, this extra time is a good thing. Indeed, the deployment of IOS update 14.5 has had a significant impact on digital campaigns on Instagram or Facebook. We were thus able to observe an increase in overall CPMs, but also a decrease in reach on these platforms. Therefore, it is not hard to imagine the consequences of quickly deleting third-party cookies on Chrome.

What is the schedule offered by Google? 

To protect itself from the rejection of the various solutions proposed, Google will throughout the process work jointly with the Web community and the CMA. 

Suggested areas for improvement

Mainly, the efforts related to the respect of personal data are based on three key areas:

  • Audience measurement
  • The distribution of relevant advertisements and content
  • And finally the detection of fraud

Currently, thirty proposals have already been made on these subjects, four of which are currently in the testing phase. 

A methodology based on exchange and feedback

For each of the proposals, Google strives to follow the methodology used in the development of open solutions:

  • Discussions on technologies and their prototypes on suitable platforms such as GitHub or W3C groups
  • Then different test phases are set up on Chrome
  • Finally a launch phase on Google Chrome when the technology is ready 

Google thus hopes that the continuous exchanges between the various actors will allow a smooth deployment of the identified solutions. 

A precise timetable for the deletion of third-party cookies 

For the end of third-party cookies on the Chrome browser in particular, the provisional schedule is as follows: 

  • Stage 1 (from the end of 2022): This will take place after testing and implementation in Chrome. Publishers and advertising professionals will then have nine months to migrate their services. Note that Google will also take returns into account before moving on to the next step.
  • Stage 2 (from mid-2023): Over a three-year period until the end of 2023, Google will remove support for third-party cookies on Chrome. 

As we can see, the transition phase will therefore be much longer than initially expected. This time will be used by Google to offer effective solutions and by industry professionals to adapt their advertising campaigns. 

What are the current alternatives offered by Google? 

All the alternatives that Google is working on are part of its initiative called Privacy Sandbox. This term designates a set of APIs whose objective is to meet the new needs of the Web such as respect for the privacy of users.

Thus, the difficulty of the matter is to reconcile confidentiality on the Web and the development of businesses on the Internet. Indeed, third-party cookies have a certain usefulness for professionals, because they make it possible to measure the number of visits to the brand’s website, but also to offer personalized and relevant advertising. 

Targeting with FLoC

One of the most interesting solutions offered by Google to address this problem is FLoC for Federated Learning of Cohorts . The idea is no longer to individually target the Internet user, but to base the targeting on audience segments. These are identified by the Chrome browser. To do this, the latter is based on the browsing habits of the various users.

Thus, users are classified into cohorts made up of hundreds or thousands of Internet users. This therefore allows targeting by center of interest while preserving anonymity. 

However, FLoC is meeting a lot of resistance from some players who criticize Google for gaining more control over the information collected. 

Fledge for retargeting

Then we have the Fledge or First Locally-Executed Decision over Groups Experiment proposal This solution enables ad bidding decisions to be made at the browser level rather than at the ad server level.

Data therefore circulates less and it is more complex to create user profiles. Fledge is therefore a credible alternative to protect user privacy while continuing to use retargeting as part of successful advertising campaigns.

Aggregated Reporting for Reach measurement 

Finally, the aggregate reporting APIs aim to replace the use of third-party cookies for essential applications in the field of online advertising such as Reach measurement, frequency analysis, but also for post-impression data. . These measurements are currently collected by third-party cookies.

Privacy Sandbox: A set of relevant proposals

As we can see, Google’s Privacy Sandbox initiative tries to provide concrete solutions for many uses. Ultimately, the joint work of the various players should make it possible to give birth to solutions that can really be used on a daily basis. 

Thus, the additional time granted by Google is beneficial for the online advertising sector, but also for Internet users. Indeed, we are approaching a new model for the Web that is emerging without third-party cookies. 

The future of digital advertising 

Despite all the rumors arguing for the end of online advertising, we believe on the contrary that the sector has a bright future ahead of it. However, the digital advertising of tomorrow will be more respectful of everyone’s privacy, while being just as effective.

Relevant alternatives to third-party cookies 

Indeed, the many initiatives such as Google’s Privacy Sandbox demonstrate the effervescence and creativity of Web players to adapt. Without a doubt, each use of third-party cookies may eventually be replaced by an effective solution.

In addition, it is also possible to deploy and strengthen strategies focused on first-party cookies. Finally, we are seeing continued growth in internet traffic and data. This information will therefore ultimately make it possible to set up effective campaigns for the companies that will need them.

To conclude, the Web since its creation has never stopped changing and adapting to different social and technological developments and this is what makes its strength. There is no doubt that he will continue this momentum for many years to come. 

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