Friday 25 June 2021 10:38 am

Google delays cookie ban after UK watchdog pressure

Google has delayed plans to remove third-party cookies from its Chrome browser by almost two years following pressure from rivals and competition regulators.

The search engine giant had planned to ban companies from gathering users’ browsing data from January next year, but has now pushed back the move to the end of 2023.

Google said the delay would allow it to meet commitments made to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) last month, when it agreed to give the watchdog 120 days to examine its plans before they came into action.

The CMA has launched a consultation on whether to accept the commitments and if accepted they would become legally binding. 

Google has outlined plans to phase out third-party cookies — which allow advertising companies to track users across the internet — and replace them with a new system dubbed the Privacy Sandbox.

But rivals have accused the Alphabet-owned tech giant of using improved privacy as a cover for increasing its market share.

The CMA has warned advertising spending could become even more concentrated on Google and undermine the ability of online publishers to generate revenue. 

“While there’s considerable progress with this initiative, it’s become clear that more time is needed across the ecosystem to get this right,” Vinay Goel, privacy engineering director for Chrome, wrote in a blog post.

“We need to move at a responsible pace, allowing sufficient time for public discussion on the right solutions and for publishers and the advertising industry to migrate their services.”

Google now plans to deploy new tech by late 2022 for testing before phasing out cookies over a three-month period starting in mid-2023, subject to CMA approval.

Tom Bianchi, EMEA chief marketing officer of software company Acquia, said: “Google’s u-turn on its plans for third-party cookies is indicative of the impasse that the tech giant — and much of the ad tech industry — finds itself at. 

“Consumer demand for privacy has never been stronger yet cookies have been the lifeblood of the digital advertising industry, which relies on the data they provide to target online messages at consumers.”

The EU this week opened its own investigation into Google’s planned ban on third-party cookies, saying it would focus on concerns the tech giant favours its own online advertising services.