The time has come: Google bids farewell to third-party cookies
Privacy will be Google’s focus in 2024 when it disables third-party cookies in its proprietary browser Chrome. What changes will that bring for users and marketers?
Privacy – a top priority, including for Google
In recent years, third-party cookies have increasingly earned themselves a bad reputation for collecting sensitive and personal data and storing too much data, much to the disapproval of data protection campaigners. Another concern is that this information is being used to create comprehensive user profiles. Up until now, advertisers have been able to link thousands of data points within the data to generate unique profiles, giving them ideal tracking capabilities to display relevant ads to users.
Third-party cookies enable ad servers to track the behavior of users across multiple websites in order to develop detailed user profiles. That information can then be used by marketers to target their ads with as much precision as possible.
The use of third-party cookies by Google and other browser providers is now facing criticism due to privacy concerns, with the result that they have already been disabled in Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox. However, Google’s Chrome is the undisputed number 1 web browser and is therefore being watched particularly closely by ad servers and advertisers. After all, they expect to still be able to market with precision even without third-party cookies, otherwise large advertising budgets will go to waste.
Will the shift away from cookies, kickstarted in 2020, have a happy ending?
The end of third-party cookies certainly hasn’t been a quick matter. A rushed approach to deactivating the trackers, which are such an essential part of the digital advertising market, would have been far too chaotic. That’s why Google wanted to develop privacy-compliant alternatives before discontinuing the proven technology. Over the past few years, this potentially drastic change of direction has played out as follows:
In 2020, we already asked the question: What awaits the advertising industry after third-party cookies become extinct? At the time, Google was still proposing an ambitious schedule and was expecting to shift away from third-party cookies completely by 2022. The experts we interviewed emphasized how uncertain the advertising industry felt about the news, but also presented some initial ideas for alternatives.
A year later, the advertising industry seemed much more optimistic. So we dedicated a whole story to the topic: A new advertising world: a look at the alternatives to third-party cookies. The development of alternative technologies was now in full swing. Google itself was working on a package of measures called the Privacy Sandbox. We spoke to Katharina Arntzen, Head of Ads Privacy In-Country Leads in Google’s EMEA Go-to-Market team, who walked us through the planned process and highlighted what measures advertisers should take themselves.
In 2022, it became clear that a privacy-optimized successor technology to replace third-party cookies was still going to take some time, when we reported that Google had extended third-party cookies until 2024. The balancing act between data protection and functionality was proving to be a real challenge.
The end of third-party cookies got much closer in 2023, and cookieless targeting entered the picture as an alternative to established advertising models. First-party data, semantic targeting, and contextual targeting revealed themselves as effective tracking alternatives. At the same time though, it became clear that many companies weren’t really familiar with these terms yet. If they haven’t already, marketers must now bring themselves up to speed with the alternatives presented in 2023 before it’s too late.
2024 – Google finally bids farewell to third-party cookies in Chrome
The end of an era: Google will be disabling third-party cookies once and for all in 2024. With its Privacy Sandbox project, Google has created APIs for ad servers and advertisers, offering them an equivalent alternative while better protecting the personal data of users. As part of a testing period in the first half of the year, third-party cookies will initially be restricted for 1% of Chrome users. If this test is successful, Google plans to put the final nail in the coffin of the outdated tracking technology in the third quarter of 2024. We’re intrigued to see how the shift will pan out for the world’s leading browser. Only time will tell!