Chrome is Finally Blocking Third-party Cookies by Default

Chrome is Finally Blocking Third-party Cookies by Default

Google Is Finally Saying Goodbye to Cookies.

Google is officially phasing out cookies, a significant move for a company that has historically leveraged these digital trackers to amass substantial revenue. Despite the paradoxical nature of the decision—given that cookies played a pivotal role in Google’s financial success—the tech giant is discarding them as part of a broader initiative to curtail cross-site tracking across the web.

What exactly are cookies?

Unlike their delectable namesake, internet cookies are not treats. They are files generated during web browsing to identify a user’s device. Think of them as silent ID badges worn unwittingly while navigating various sites. When you engage with a website, it reads your cookies and tailors content based on your previous browsing patterns.

Cookies encapsulate a wealth of information about your online sessions, encompassing details such as your accounts, shopping cart items, visited pages, and time spent on those pages. While not inherently malicious—often serving to remember user preferences upon returning to a site—cookies become problematic in the realm of tracking and targeted advertising, their primary applications.

Businesses rely on cookies to trail users across the internet, seeking insights into their online activities. This pursuit is not driven by a desire to pilfer identities or compile incriminating evidence but rather to inundate users with ads perceived as personally relevant. If an advertising algorithm discerns your penchant for browsing Nike sneakers, the likelihood of you clicking on a Nike ad surges compared to an unrelated, random advertisement.

The profiles crafted through cookie-generated data are frequently remarkably accurate. Whether our devices eavesdrop on us remains a debated topic; nevertheless, it is inconsequential because ad targeting is predominantly based on meticulously compiled profiles. If you find yourself receiving ads for recently discussed topics, it’s more likely due to the precision of your profile, or that of your companions, than any active eavesdropping.

For advertisers and entities dependent on advertising revenue, cookies are invaluable. However, for regular internet users, cookies pose a substantial invasion of privacy. Targeted ads may not be the worst consequence, but the notion of being incessantly tracked across the internet to construct an uncannily precise profile raises concerns that most users did not anticipate when embracing online connectivity.

Google has officially initiated its farewell to cookies

A move that was originally disclosed in December. The phased approach, commencing today on January 4, involves limiting access to third-party cookies for 1% of Chrome users. Given Chrome’s extensive user base exceeding three billion globally, this translates to over 30 million users experiencing these modifications.

While cookies remain an integral element of the broader internet ecosystem, certain websites rely on them for optimal functionality. Consequently, with Tracking Protection activated, which restricts third-party cookies by default, users may encounter issues with some sites. In such cases, Google will prompt users to re-enable third-party cookies to ensure smooth operation of the affected websites.

Determining if Google has disabled cookies for a user involves paying attention to pop-ups. Approximately 30 million users, subject to default cookie restrictions, will receive an alert the first time they launch Chrome after the implementation of changes. This alert notifies them of their selection for Tracking Protection. However, users should be cautious as it is easy to dismiss the alert by clicking the “Got it” button, potentially leaving them unaware of their selection in the first place.

Fortunately, once Tracking Protection is activated, it comes with a distinctive eyeball logo, providing a clear visual cue that it is enabled.

For those not currently part of Google’s initial test group, there’s no need to worry.

The company plans to implement these changes globally by the second half of 2024, impacting all users eventually. Moreover, users can manually disable third-party cookies at any time by navigating to Chrome settings > Privacy and security > Third-party cookies. It’s important to note that opting to block third-party cookies may affect the functionality of certain websites that rely on them.

While Google’s move to enhance privacy by limiting cookies may seem belated compared to industry trends, it signifies a positive step forward. Other companies have already made significant strides in blocking cross-site tracking, with browsers like Safari and Firefox defaulting to such measures. Apple, in particular, disrupted the advertising landscape with iOS 14.5’s App Tracking Transparency, requiring app permission to track users.

However, the elimination of cookies doesn’t mark the end of Google’s privacy considerations. Tracking Protection is part of Google’s broader “Privacy Sandbox” initiative, aiming to curtail data scraping for more private internet browsing. Google will now gather crucial, revenue-generating data from users, storing it in its “sandbox” and grouping individual data pieces with other relevant sets. This aggregated data will be shared with companies in a manner that maintains user privacy, allowing them to align advertising with broader trends in user behavior without identifying individuals.

While this approach is not flawless, it represents an improvement over Google’s previous practices. Critics argue that Google falls short of adopting a privacy-first stance like Apple, DuckDuckGo, and Firefox, which eliminated third-party cookies without introducing additional tracking. Google’s model, however, involves providing data to companies while preserving user privacy on a broader scale. Despite its progress, many users express a desire for Google to develop solutions that do not necessitate entrusting the company with all browsing data. In the meantime, some users may opt for browsers like Safari as an alternative.

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