PPA Blog

Google delays phasing-out of third-party cookies

By Amy Owens

28 Jun 2021

Google has delayed its plan to end supporting third-party cookies by the second quarter of 2022 by almost two years, following increasing pressure on the company.

The Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) announced recently that it would consult on a number of concessions offered by the tech giant over the proposals. These included a pledge that Google would not make any changes without giving the CMA 60 days to review the plans.

The company stated that the delay is to allow more time for talks with regulators and companies, and to “avoid jeopardising the business models of many web publishers which support freely available content”. Although Apple’s Safari browser and Mozilla’s Firefox have already blocked third-party cookies by default, Google’s plans are much more significant as Chrome accounts for two-thirds of the browser market.

In Chrome, cookies are to be replaced with Federated Learning of Cohorts (known as Floc), with personal data retained and analysed inside the browser. The data would be used to group users, with the aggregated cohorts used to target advertisements. These plans have proved controversial due to fears that Google will control the design of the new system and be able to build an even greater data advantage: many digital publishers have not enabled Floc, and Google will now end its initial trial of Floc on July 13.

Google will test its new Privacy Sandbox features and monitor for industry uptake in late 2022, which is when the CMA will look at the changes. Publishers will have nine months to migrate their own systems. Dependent on Google’s engagement with the CMA, the Chrome browser will then likely phase out third-party cookies over three months, beginning in mid-2023.

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