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Google ‘confident’ third-party cookie alternatives are right for ads and privacy

Jamie Harris, PA Science Technology Reporter
·2-min read

Google has said it is confident that proposals to scrap third-party cookies on Chrome are right for the web despite questions about the impact it could have on sites dependent on them for revenue.

The tech giant is pressing ahead with the move despite concerns from publishers and an ongoing investigation by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) regulator.

Google has now set out a number of alternatives that it believes is the best way forward for advertising without tracking users’ behaviour across the web.

Improving privacy has been the main argument for the move – known as the Privacy Sandbox project – since it was first revealed a year ago.

The firm wants to phase out support for third-party cookies by 2022, in line with other internet browsers, but online publishers such as newspapers are concerned this could distort competition and create a “Google-owned walled garden”.

Speaking to press on Monday, Chetna Bindra, Google’s group product manager of user trust and privacy, said: “We are really more confident than ever this is the best path to improve privacy for web users and ensure an ad-supported web.”

One of the ideas the company is pursing, known as FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts), groups users who have similar browsing behaviours, essentially hiding individuals within a crowd.

Testing is set to begin in March, though the firm stresses that no final decision has yet been made.

Google said such changes will also impact its own advertising products.

Marketers for an Open Web (MOW), a group of newspaper publishers and technology companies which complained to the CMA about the changes, said Google’s claims of collaboration and openness are “disingenuous”.

“Privacy Sandbox is trying to replace an open and interoperable technology with one that is Google controlled,” a spokesperson said.

“This will force marketers into their walled garden and will spell the end of the independent and open web.

“Google’s proposals are bad for independent media owners, bad for independent advertising technology and bad for advertisers.

“The people who will be most significantly affected by this will be smaller local publishers and independent businesses – they will effectively be cut out of the open online advertising marketplace causing devastating damage to their businesses.

They continued: “This is a monopolistic player attempting to consolidate their dominance by degrading the open web using privacy and collaboration as a veil of legitimacy.

“Requiring people to surrender directly identifiable, personal information like their email address, name, phone number, and search history to a handful of trillion dollar businesses operating an oligopoly does nothing to improve people’s privacy in practice.”