Wednesday, July 6

Google delays blocking third-party cookies in Chrome until 2023

Google announced this Thursday that it will not remove third-party cookies from its Chrome browser until the end of 2023, two years later than planned. The multinational affirms that it does so “out of responsibility”, since abandoning them on the initially scheduled date could “endanger the business models of many web publishers that support open access content.”

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Third-party cookies are software that is installed on the device when you visit a service or web page to follow your browsing through the network and infer your interests for advertising purposes. These pieces of computer code are sent by a third party, not by the page or service being visited, for which they collect data. In 2020, when it announced that it would eliminate them, Google recognized that this model had produced “erosion of trust” of digital advertising, since it “provides thousands of companies with an enormous amount of data of individual users”.

Chrome is the majority browser worldwide, used by approximately 63% of users, according to figures from Statcounter. Its main competition, such as Safari (with 24% market share), Samsung’s browser (5.8%), Opera (2%) or Firefox (0.5%) has allowed for years to block third-party cookies .

Google says the delay will provide “sufficient time for public debate on appropriate solutions, continued engagement with regulators, and for publishers and the advertising industry to migrate their services.” “We plan to continue working with the web community to create more private approaches in key areas,” he says in an entry on his official blog.

In this period the multinational has been working on an alternative model to cookies. Calls it ‘FLoC’ (Federated Learning of Cohorts, something like federated cohort learning) and consists of preventing individual tracking but enabling the analysis of aggregated personal data of groups of people with similar advertising profiles.

A browser that uses FLoC instead of third-party cookies would collect information about the user’s browsing, but would not send it to a database where it would be registered under their name and surname or an advertising identification number. Instead, I would add her to that “cohort” of users with similar habits. The minimum number of people in each cohort would be a few thousand, according to Google’s proposal. When the particular interests of a group of users form cohorts that are too small, they will join with others to reach the minimum number and prevent identification by discarding.

The FLoC alternative did not convince privacy specialists and is also being analyzed by the European Commission, which suspects that it could further increase advertisers’ dependence on Google.