Google’s Chrome browser is gearing up for a significant change in its ad-targeting strategy. The tech giant announced plans to trial a new feature called Tracking Protection, aimed at restricting the use of third-party cookies that advertisers heavily rely on to track user behavior.
Starting January 4, this feature will be tested among 1% of Chrome users worldwide, initially curbing cross-site tracking by default. The ultimate goal? Completely phasing out third-party cookies for all users by the latter half of 2024.
However, Google’s timeline is contingent on addressing concerns raised by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) regarding potential antitrust issues. The CMA has been probing Google’s move to limit support for certain cookies in Chrome, fearing it might stifle competition within the digital advertising landscape, an area where Google dominates.
These cookies, essentially digital tags, enable websites and advertisers to identify and monitor individuals’ online activities—a core element in targeted advertising.
The European Union’s antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager, echoed these sentiments, highlighting ongoing investigations into Google’s implementation of tools to block third-party cookies, part of its larger “Privacy Sandbox” initiative.
Advertisers are expressing apprehension about the implications of losing cookies in the world’s most widely used browser. This change would curtail their ability to gather data for personalized ads, potentially leaving them reliant on Google’s proprietary user databases.
In response to this impending shift, analysts at BofA Global Research foresee a transformation in the dynamics of advertising. They predict that the cookie phase-out will empower media agencies capable of offering unique insights on a large scale, granting them greater leverage with advertisers.