As of January 4, tracking cookies in Google Chrome will be turned off. It seems that, after several delays, Google’s “Privacy Sandbox” project will officially begin.
“On January 4, we’ll begin testing Tracking Protection, a new feature that limits cross-site tracking by restricting website access to third-party cookies by default. We’ll roll this out to 1% of Chrome users globally, a key milestone in our Privacy Sandbox initiative to phase out third-party cookies for everyone in the second half of 2024, subject to addressing any remaining competition concerns from the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority”, Google writes on its blog.
Google Chrome is the most popular browser in the world. There are over 3.22 billion users, a number that keeps growing. The browser saw the light of day in 2008 as an alternative to existing browsers, to offer users a fast and secure browser. Due to the popularity of the browser, any change they make will have an impact on users, but also on the Internet itself.
The project begins with a test phase, where 1 percent of Google Chrome users will participate. The first participants are selected at random. These 30 million users will receive a notification through a pop-up window, informing them that they are part of the first group of users for whom “Tracking Protection” has been activated.
How cookies have worked so far
Almost since the dawn of internet tracking cookies, all the functionality has been almost identical. The cookies let companies know when you’ve been looking at certain, say, sneakers or a new graphics card. As a result, you’re served with similar ads.
Internet cookies are short pieces of text that are saved on the computer when we visit a page. By opening the page, the server sends a cookie to the browser. The “cookie” contains identification data, tracking method and user settings data. The browser saves this file on the computer, smartphone, or other device used to visit the site. When visiting the page again, the browser sends the data from the cookie to the server. The information contained in the internet cookie can be used to personalize the experience of website visitors, but also to analyze their activity. This allows websites to offer you specialized content, advertisements, or to analyze how users use the site.
Sometimes cookies are not only used by the site we are visiting, but also by third parties, such as advertising networks or analytics services. This results in our activity being tracked on many different websites. Some of the more intrusive cookies allow the site’s partners to know everything we do online. This is great for advertising and companies, but terrible for anyone who cares about their privacy.
Changes to user tracking – groups instead of cookies
Instead of cookies, Google will start implementing new ways to track users using Google Chrome from January 4. Unfortunately, this does not mean that Google will suddenly stop tracking us entirely. This just means that the way of tracking has been changed.
All data is now stored on the user’s device. Depending on this data, the browser will be able to place users in different groups, for example “Taylor Swift fans”, “sports fan”, or “younger conservative”. This will be the only data that will leave the user’s browser.
The good news is that the data that will be used to display ads cannot identify the user. The bad news is that Google is still tracking users, and now they are the only ones who can use this data in any way.
Users who have the “Tracking Protection” functionality active will be able to notice a new icon (eye) in the URL field. In the same field, users will be able to choose to deactivate the ban on cookies.
Imminent problems on the horizon
Google is probably aware that the change will not be without problems. There are websites that require cookies to function. Because of this, automatic detection has been added if the user “refreshes” a page several times. As soon as Chrome detects this, it will send a proposal to temporarily turn off the ban on third-party cookies.
It is yet to be seen what this means for people and freelancers who maintain sites. Guess will find out soon enough!