Google will begin phasing out cross-website cookie tracking on its dominant browser, Chrome, forcing one of the biggest changes to the makeup of digital advertising since its inception.

First invented in 1994, the cookie has become a core part of the internet’s advertising ecosystem, its removal will hit the internet hard.

This doesn’t, of course, mean that Google is about to see in an internet free of personalised online advertising, but according to a blog posted on its Chromium blog, it would aim to “render third-party cookies obsolete” in two years.

“Users are demanding greater privacy--including transparency, choice and control over how their data is used--and it’s clear the web ecosystem needs to evolve to meet these increasing demands”, wrote Justin Schuh, Director, Chrome Engineering.

Following similar initiatives from Apple, Mozilla, and Microsoft, all of whom have recently introduced bans on third-party cookies, Google will work toward a new solution while attempting to introduce what comes next subtly. “We believe [an outright ban] has unintended consequences that can negatively impact both users and the web ecosystem.”

“By undermining the business model of many ad-supported websites, blunt approaches to cookies encourage the use of opaque techniques such as fingerprinting (an invasive workaround to replace cookies), which can actually reduce user privacy and control.”

Which is a fair point, though as a sentiment it also points to a possible consequence of handing big firms like Google and Facebook – themselves holders of large amounts of personal information – even more power.

The other alternative is that such restriction will see in underhand methods of tracking users across the web.

Google adds that it is currently working to make current web tech more secure. “Chrome will limit insecure cross-site tracking starting in February, by treating cookies that don’t include a SameSite label as first-party only, and require cookies labeled for third-party use to be accessed over HTTPS. This will make third-party cookies more secure and give users more precise browser cookie controls.”

As WARC recommended in the Privacy chapter of the Marketer’s Toolkit 2020, data-driven behavioural tracking is under scrutiny, lifting the profile of contextual planning. As Kantar research from late last year shows, “site context and ad congruence can boost campaign impact significantly.”

Sourced from Google, WARC