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Chrome without cookies?

May 8, 2019byRomain Gauthier

Google announced at Google I/O conference yesterday that it will now enforce dramatic restrictions on cookies within Chrome.

What does this mean?

This is good news for Chrome users who will now get more control over their cookies in their favourite browser, which was historically hard. Those who have ever read a cookie policy know that. In a nutshell, Chrome will now require cookies to formally declare whether they are first party or third party cookies and therefore allow the browser to decide whether it should accept or erase a cookie when any server attempts to drop it. This opens the door for more strict control settings made available to Chrome users and to automated blocking of specific set of cookies.

This is especially not good news for the adtech industry which depends entirely on 3rd party cookies to evaluate and target ads for a given user and then to attribute advertising performance. Adtech players with a high dependency on desktop retargeting will likely suffer from this announcement.

Why is Google doing this?

This announcement comes after a serie of move by Apple and more recently Facebook towards better privacy for their users. Google is first and foremost aligning with its most direct competitors Safari and Firefox. Both have enforced restrictions on tracking and 3rd party cookies. Safari annouced it last month with ITP 2.2 and Firefox back in January with some new privacy features.

It’s also easy to directly link that to the early GDPR complaints and fines in Europe which have particularly targeted the adtech industry. It’s probably more fundamentally related to a shift in internet user behaviours with more informed users who take more and more action to protect their privacy, notably through ad blocking. Interestingly, Chrome global browser market share has plateaued and is even slightly declining since November 2018 on desktop, so it may also be aimed at silencing emerging Chrome competitors. Some such as Brave which have recently made headlines on their privacy-first browser approach.

It’s interesting to observe Google’s trajectory on the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) where its engineers are clearly pushing to get rid of cookies as we know them to replace them altogether with something more secure (HTTP state tokens) but recognize that an incremental approach such as the one pushed by Chrome is more likely to work. It’s clearly indicating an inevitable shift towards a more secure and privacy-respecting internet as it has been long advocated by many, including sir Tim Berners Lee who is actively working on decentralizing the internet.

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