Google can’t quit third-party cookies—delays shut down for a third time

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Extreme close-up photograph of finger above Chrome icon on smartphone.

Will Chrome, the world’s most popular browser, ever kill third-party cookies? Apple and Mozilla both killed off the user-tracking technology in 2020. Google, the world’s largest advertising company, originally said it wouldn’t kill third-party cookies until 2022. Then in 2021, it delayed the change until 2023. In 2022, it delayed everything again, until 2024. It’s 2024 now, and guess what? Another delay. Now Google says it won’t turn off third-party cookies until 2025, five years after the competition.

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A new blog post cites UK regulations as the reason for the delay, saying, “We recognize that there are ongoing challenges related to reconciling divergent feedback from the industry, regulators and developers, and will continue to engage closely with the entire ecosystem.” The post comes as part of the quarterly reports the company is producing with the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Interestingly, the UK’s CMA isn’t concerned about user privacy but instead is worried about other web advertisers that compete with Google. The UK wants to make sure that Google isn’t making changes to Chrome to prop up its advertising business at the expense of competitors. While other browser vendors shut down third-party cookies without a second thought, Google said it wouldn’t turn off the user-tracking feature until it built an alternative advertising feature directly into Chrome, so it can track user interests to serve them relevant ads. The new advertising system, called the Topics API and “Privacy Sandbox,” launched in Chrome in 2023. Google AdSense is already compatible.

The UK is worried that Chrome’s new ad system might give Google’s ad division an unfair advantage. Google and the UK CMA are talking it out, and Google says it’s “critical that the CMA has sufficient time to review all evidence, including results from industry tests, which the CMA has asked market participants to provide by the end of June.” Google has a public testing suite for Chrome’s new ad system to allow for feedback. Given all the testing data that needs to be pored over, Google says, “We will not complete third-party cookie deprecation during the second half of Q4.” We’ll check back next year!

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