Google to test new browser feature limiting use of tracking cookies

  • Google to test Tracking Protection in Chrome, limiting third-party cookies.
  • Complete phase-out of these cookies planned for the second half of 2024.
  • The move raises concerns in digital advertising about reduced data for personalisation.

Alphabet’s Google has unveiled its plan to test a new privacy-focused feature in its Chrome browser. This feature, dubbed Tracking Protection, aims to limit the use of third-party cookies, which are widely used by advertisers for tracking consumer behavior online. Set to commence on January 4, this trial will impact 1% of Chrome users worldwide.

Impact on digital advertising and antitrust concerns

The introduction of Tracking Protection is a part of Google’s larger strategy to phase out third-party cookies in Chrome by the second half of 2024. However, this timeline is subject to the resolution of antitrust issues highlighted by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The CMA is closely examining Google’s cookie policy changes, concerned about potential adverse effects on competition in the digital advertising sector. This scrutiny is critical, considering advertising is Google’s primary revenue source.Cookies are small files that enable websites and advertisers to recognise individual web users and track their online activities. They have been instrumental in the evolution of personalised digital advertising. However, the use of cookies has also raised privacy concerns, prompting regulatory and consumer demand for more privacy-conscious browsing solutions.

Also read: Google’s project Ellmann applies Gemini AI to personalise AI storytelling

EU’s ongoing investigations and advertiser reactions

The European Union’s antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager, has stated that the EU will continue its investigations into Google’s initiative to block third-party cookies as part of its “Privacy Sandbox” project. Meanwhile, advertisers are voicing concerns that Google’s move to eliminate cookies will curtail their ability to collect data for personalised advertising, making them more dependent on Google’s databases.

Also read: Google Promises 10 Years of Extended Updates for Chromebook

Brokerage firm BofA Global Research has noted that the reduction of cookie usage could empower media agencies, especially those that can provide large-scale, proprietary insights to advertisers. In a future landscape where traditional data collection methods are restricted, the role of such agencies may become increasingly significant.

As Google embarks on this new phase with Tracking Protection, the digital advertising industry, regulators, and consumers will closely monitor the implications. This initiative could be a pivotal moment in defining the balance between user privacy and the needs of the digital advertising industry.

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