Google Progresses Plan to Remove Third-Party Cookies -- Update
By Sam Schechner
Google is pushing forward with its plan to remove a widely used
tracking technology from its Chrome web browser, despite complaints
from rivals that rely on it to target ads at individuals.
The Alphabet Inc. unit on Monday said that it is making progress
on what it said are privacy-friendly alternatives that could
replace third-party cookies, which many advertisers and other
companies use to track individuals' browsing habits across multiple
Google cited positive test results for a technology that
analyzes users' browsing habits on their own devices, without
sending sensitive data to central servers, and said it expects to
open outside testing of ad buys using the technology in the second
A Google spokesman said the company is still on track to stop
supporting such cookies in Chrome next year, when the new
alternatives are expected to be ready.
Third-party cookies offer data that can be valuable to
advertisers for the purpose of targeting ads, measuring their
effectiveness and stopping fraud. But the way they track
individuals' personal browsing has long raised privacy concerns,
leading Google to say last year that it would phase them out in
Chrome is the most widely used web browser, with more than 60%
of the market globally, according to Statcounter.
"We continue to believe strongly that the decision to phase out
support for third party cookies is absolutely the right thing to do
for user privacy and the industry as a whole," said Chetna Bindra,
a product manager at Google. "Our google advertising products will
be impacted just as other ad technologies will be impacted."
The debate over third-party cookies underscores a dilemma when
it comes to regulating big tech companies: Protecting user privacy
and promoting online competition can sometimes be at odds because
one of tech's most popular business models is targeting advertising
at individuals based on their online behavior.
Google's announcement comes as Apple Inc. is facing scrutiny for
similar plans. Apple aims to require apps to get opt-in permission
from users to collect a widely used advertising identifier for
iPhones, something some app developers and advertising companies
say is anticompetitive because it would deprive them of needed
Google, for its part, is facing scrutiny over third-party
cookies on both sides of the Atlantic.
Earlier this month, the U.K.'s Competition and Markets
Authority, the country's top antitrust regulator, said it had
opened a formal probe into the phasing out of third-party cookies.
It said it would examine whether the plan could cause advertisers
to shift spending to Google's set of online-ad tools at the expense
of its competitors.
In a December antitrust lawsuit against Google, Texas and nine
other U.S. states suggested the plan could end up increasing
Google's advantage over other companies by giving it more data than
On Monday, Google said its internal tests have shown that
alternative tools it is developing could allow advertisers and
publishers to do most of the things they do with third-party
cookies without losing much value.
In a simulated test, the technology that analyzes browsing on
individual devices, led to "at least 95% of the conversions per
dollar spent" compared with traditional cookies, Google said.
Another technology could allow companies to create audiences of
users they wish to reach via advertising, such as people who have
been to the advertiser's website, without using third-party
cookies, Google said.
Google said it is working with other companies in the digital ad
space to help develop the new technologies, and is incorporating
their feedback in the cookie replacements.
"Our focus has been to ensure that we are working with the
broader web community," Ms. Bindra said.
Write to Sam Schechner at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 25, 2021 10:43 ET (15:43 GMT)
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