Google Pushes Back Chrome’s Blocking Of Tracking Cookies

Google's Chrome web browser will not fully block tracking cookies until late 2023.

Google’s Chrome web browser will not fully block tracking cookies until late 2023, the Alphabet Inc company said, delaying by nearly two years a move that has drawn antitrust concerns from competitors and regulators.

Google had wanted to bar reams of ad-personalization companies from gathering users’ browsing interests through cookies from January 2022. However, rivals accused the world’s biggest online ads seller by revenue of using improved privacy as a pretense to gain greater market share.

Alphabet shares were up 0.5% in early Thursday afternoon trading. But shares soared for companies that had been scrambling to reduce reliance on cookies. Among them, Trade Desk Inc surged 18%, PubMatic Inc 12%, and Criteo SA 10%.

After an investigation, Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) agreed this month with Google to oversee the Chrome changes. Google said its new timeline was in line with the agreement.

“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,” Vinay Goel, privacy engineering director for Chrome, wrote in a blog post.

The CMA said it was consulting on whether to accept Google’s commitments and in that context it had been informed of the proposed changes to the timeline.

“If the commitments are accepted they become legally binding, promoting competition in digital markets, helping to protect the ability of online publishers to raise money through advertising and safeguarding users’ privacy,” a spokesperson said.

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The US Department of Justice has also investigated Chrome and cookies, Reuters has reported. The European Union’s competition commission said Wednesday it too was investigating. Google is working with the ad industry on technologies that could replace the tracking capabilities of cookies while better protecting online privacy.

It now aims to choose new techniques by late next year, do final testing, and then gradually phase out tracking cookies starting mid-2023 if the CMA signs off.

Apple Inc’s Safari browser has pursued similar changes, but Chrome is used more widely in the United States and Europe.

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