Google Launches Plan to Kill (Non-Edible) Cookies

Initiative to eliminate third-party trackers online begins with test of 1% of Chrome users
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 4, 2024 1:07 PM CST
You May Get a Specific Google Pop-Up Starting Thursday
Google has begun phasing out third-party cookies.   (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

If you're a Chrome user who gets a pop-up from Google on Thursday, it's likely a sign that you're part of the first phase of the company's plan to eliminate cookies—the much-reviled tech gizmos that track your online activity and direct targeted ads your way. Details:

  • As of Thursday, Google will start blocking the cookies of about 1% of Chrome users, or about 30 million people, reports the BBC. The company aims to eliminate them for all users by the end of the year.
  • How to tell if you're in the 1%? Affected users will get a pop-up announcement from Google telling them so, reports Gizmodo (which describes cookies as the "original sin of the internet"). They'll also see an eyeball logo in the URL bar.

  • If the cookie-blocking interferes with the ability to call up certain websites, Google will prompt you on how to override the setting, the company says in a blog post.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports that this a major change for advertisers, who don't appear to be ready for it. The full ban, for example, takes effect around the fourth quarter of the year. "The timing remains poor," says Anthony Katsur of the ad-tech industry trade group IAB Tech Lab. Having it take full effect "during the industry's greatest revenue-generating part of the year is just a terrible decision." Mozilla's Firefox and Apple's Safari browsers have previously taken steps to rein in cookies.
  • Even if advertisers aren't thrilled, this is great news for privacy, right? Don't get too excited. Gizmodo notes that Google aims to replace third-party cookies with its own "Privacy Sandbox." It's complicated, but, in general, "the Chrome browser itself will track what you're doing online, but it stores that data on your device instead of sending it off to Google or anyone else." Users get sorted into "topics," and advertisers can ask Chrome which general cohort you're in (for example, among those who like hair-removal products). But data on individual browsing is off-limits. The Electronic Frontier Foundation isn't wowed and advises people to turn off the Privacy Sandbox setting, with this guide.
(More Google stories.)

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