With browsers such as Firefox and the new Edge curbing the excesses of cookies, Google is under increasing pressure to do the same with Chrome. The company has always believed that restricting cookies would lead too much to websites that use more covert means to track people. However, Google has admitted and says that Chrome blocks third-party cookies within two years.
Cookies are simply files that are placed in your browser when you visit a website. They can retain status information such as form entry, login status and more. However, cookies have also become the most common way in which websites follow you on the internet for advertising purposes. Those cookies can tell companies you have never directly interacted with, which sites you visit and what you do while you are there.
First-party cookies are usually the ones you want – they have something to do with the functionality of a website. Third-party cookies are almost always about advertising or tracking, and you have little or no control over what companies do with that data. Google is first and foremost an advertising company, so it hesitated to limit cookies. Google’s reason for keeping cookies close – that they are probably better than the alternative – is not necessarily wrong. However, the reasons for this are suspicious.
I have criticized Google in the past for using a hypothetical alternative to block cookies without teeth.
Now they deliver teeth: a plan to kill tracking cookies within two years.
So I withdraw my criticism. Kudos to Google. This is a big problem.
– Ben Adida (@benadida) January 14, 2020
Google will make changes in February 2020 when it will force third-party cookies to work via HTTPS. That brings us one step closer to eliminating uncertain cross-site tracking. Ultimately, all third-party cookies no longer work in Chrome as part of the company’s “Privacy Sandbox” initiative. Google is also working on new tools for detecting and blocking “browser fingerprinting” where a site uses information about your system, such as installed fonts and plug-ins, to create an online tracking profile.
Although Google has based itself on the issue of tracking cookies, it notes that the current web model is based on targeted ads. Simply blocking all tracking cookies puts that model at risk according to Google. So the company says it will work with different stakeholders to ensure that there are still viable ways to advertise, while also giving users control over their data. There are many vague promises and plans here, but Google has two years to figure it out.