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The Privacy Sandbox: Google Phasing Out Third-Party Cookies in 2024

 

Google announced significant changes regarding third-party cookie usage at the close of 2023, news that sparked both concern and intrigue in the digital marketing sector. But what is the Privacy Sandbox initiative? And how will this phase out impact your business?

Here’s a quick overview detailing the recent announcements as well as Google’s plans for a cookie-less 2024.

What are Third-Party Cookies?

Third-party cookies are pieces of data that are placed on a website by a third-party – i.e. by someone other than the owner of the website. These cookies then collect data about the user’s browsing activities and history, providing valuable insights that enable the use of targeted advertising.

What is the Google Privacy Sandbox Initiative?

Implemented by Google, the Privacy Sandbox initiative aims to ‘create technologies that both protect people’s privacy online and give companies and developers tools to build thriving digital businesses.’ 

The initiative outlines two steps for meeting its objectives:

  • Phasing out support for the use of third-party cookies
  • Minimising cross-app and cross-site tracking

The 1% Cookie Trial

On 4 January 2024, Google launched a trial that restricts third-party cookies for 1% of randomly-selected Chrome users. This was introduced in order to facilitate testing and ensure a smooth roll-out.

Additionally, Google also announced a ‘third party deprecation trial’, allowing sites to request additional time to transition away from third-party cookies. This trial is set to end on 27 December 2024. 

Issued Raised by the CMA Report

Concerns raised by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have effectively paused Google’s deprecation trial. The CMA report highlighted several concerns about the Privacy Sandbox. In particular, it outlined issues stemming from Google’s control over access to user data, a move that would limit their competitors and give Google a competitive edge. 

Collaborative efforts between Google and the CMA are attempting to resolve these issues. The results are expected to be released in April 2024.

No More Cookies After 2024

The journey towards phasing out third-party cookies is well underway. In fact, Google is targeting complete deprecation by the latter half of 2024, with 100% of Chrome users expected to be impacted by the end of Q3.

This timeline is contingent upon addressing concerns from the likes of CMA, as well as Google providing a smooth transition.

Considerations for Website Owners

While the initiative is being led by tech companies and the software they control, website owners still currently bear responsibility for the use of cookies on their website. So having a good privacy policy and a cookie preference tool is still essential.

Considerations for Advertisers

For Business that run ads, it’s worth thinking about the impact of less personalisation on your marketing strategy. Retargeting and display campaigns may become less effective, as they won’t be able to use browsing data from other websites.

Equally ad campaigns with conversion-led bid strategies may not get the feedback they need to optimise properly. So first-party analysis and optimisation may provide a more effective strategy.

The future of personalisation isn’t entirely clear, but it looks likely that something similar to Topics – a Google initiative – may prevail. The idea put forward is that when a user visits a website, if the website opts in to Topics, then they are given a small selection of interests relating to the user that the websites advertising technologies can use. Google claims this improves privacy by limiting personal information that is passed over and excluding personal information and interests.

Concerned About Phasing Out Cookies?

Do you have any questions about Google’s Privacy Sandbox? Concerned about how the phase out could impact your business? If so, get in touch. We’d love to help you prepare for a cookie-less future.

Get in Touch

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  • Alex Gregory

    Alex has worked with big companies and government agencies to deliver excellent digital experiences. From strategic digital campaigns to website builds and compliance, he’s an experienced marketer that knows how to grow brands online.