• D.C.
  • BXL
  • Lagos
  • Dubai
  • Beijing
  • SG
rotating globe
  • D.C.
  • BXL
  • Lagos
Semafor Logo
  • Dubai
  • Beijing
  • SG


Jan 5, 2024, 12:59pm EST
techNorth America
icon

Semafor Signals

Supported by

Microsoft logo

Why Google is getting rid of tracking cookies

Insights from The Wall Street Journal, The Verge, and WIRED


Arrow Down
Sean Gladwell/Getty Images
TweetEmailWhatsapp

Sign up for Semafor Technology: What’s next in the new era of tech. Read it now.

Title icon

The News

In a move that will eventually reshape the online advertising ecosystem, Google has begun restricting the use of third-party cookies by default on Chrome, the most popular internet browser in the world. It started with 1% of Chrome users on Thursday, representing around 30 million people.

The search giant plans to eliminate cookies for all of its Chrome users by the end of 2024, the first step towards what it calls a “privacy-first web” —though it is also introducing its own replacement tracking technologies. Cookies, which have long been an integral part of the internet, enable advertisers to track internet users’ behavior across different websites and apps in order to target ads at them.

icon

SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Death of cookies will boost online privacy

Source icon
Sources:  
WIRED, The Los Angeles Times, Digiday

The move to kill cookies has been welcomed by privacy advocates who have long lamented the invasive surveillance enabled by the unregulated collection of personal data online. Such information has been used in the past to discriminate against tenants applying for housing, for example, and in federal deportations, according to WIRED. Google says that digital advertising needs to evolve to address concerns over how people’s personal identities are used — or “risk the future of the free and open web.” The company’s latest move is part of a broader trend: Mozilla’s Firefox and Apple’s Safari browsers have also placed limits on cookies, while the Delete Act will give Californians the option to request that their personal data be deleted. The regulation also forbids data brokers that collect and sell private personal information from sharing it with third-party advertisers.

Advertisers are “nowhere near ready” for this change

Source icon
Sources:  
The Wall Street Journal, Press Gazette, Business Insider, WIRED

Cookies have been widely used by websites since the late 1990s, and advertisers are nowhere near ready for them to disappear, one advertising expert told The Wall Street Journal. Google itself has previously acknowledged that website owners using their new replacement technologies could experience delays in loading user information, which advertising representatives say could create “several hours of latency,” hurting revenue, Business Insider reported. For news outlets that relied on online advertising, the end of cookies may force more of them to move toward paywalls. The Press Gazette reported that the end of cookies will be “one more in a long series of blows to the provision of free news for all.” However, some journalism outlets that have removed targeted ads have seen an increase in revenue, since they no longer need to share profits with middlemen in the digital ad ecosystem.

Critics say Google is strengthening its dominance

Source icon
Sources:  
The Wall Street Journal, The Verge, Digiday, Popular Science, Business Insider

Privacy activists and advertising companies are concerned that Google’s changes will simply reinforce the tech giant’s dominance, according to The Wall Street Journal. Google launched an alternative to cookies called Privacy Sandbox, where advertisers will now target broad groups of people with specific interests rather than individuals using their browsing history. The company has promised that it will not give preferential treatment to its own advertising products, but activists say that its idea of privacy is “deceiving,” and most people are still logged into Google products. “Google is developing and forcing onto users and competitors a new set of tools that strengthen its dominant position in the market,” one privacy researcher told Business Insider.

Semafor Logo
AD