In a recent announcement, Google stated that its Privacy Sandbox would be available for Chrome 115 by July 18 this year. The announcement comes as Google prepares to gradually eliminate third-party cookies by 2024. It’s being said that this move has stirred industry pushback and regulatory entanglement.
Starting with the July Chrome release and over the following weeks, we’ll make the Privacy Sandbox relevance and measurement APIs available to all Chrome users.Anthony Chavez, VP of Project Management at Google
Google expects that by leveraging these new norms, developers will be able to conduct scaled, live traffic testing. This will eventually prepare them for a digital landscape devoid of third-party cookies.
What Triggered The Move
According to sources, these developments can be traced back to 2019. The year marked the commencement of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Since then, Google has been working on techniques to deliver targeted ads without resorting to intrusive third-party cookies. These are data fragments that third-party scripts on websites usually leave. Cybercriminals can misuse them for online tracking and breaching privacy norms.
Google decided to phase out third-party cookies in 2020. The decision essentially cornered advertisers into embracing Google’s Privacy Sandbox ad technology.
However, the transition has been more drawn-out than expected. Thanks to various regulatory hiccups, industry resistance, and initial shortcomings in the tech’s privacy promises.
The Privacy Sandbox encompasses six application programming interfaces (APIs). They include Protected Audience (formerly FLEDGE), Topics, Attribution Reporting, Private Aggregation, Shared Storage, and Fenced Frames.
These APIs allow advertisers to target ads to specific user interests. Besides, they also help garner data about the ads’ performance. Theoretically, this should enhance privacy beyond the scanty levels offered today.
The Aim & The Response
By Q1 2024, Google wants to scrap third-party cookies for one percent of Chrome users. It’s going to be a pilot for a more comprehensive cookie removal.
Developers will get an opportunity to simulate this impending cookie withdrawal from Q4 2023.
This is expected to align with the timeline Google agreed upon with the UK Competition and Markets Agency (CMA).
Despite these developments, there is lingering skepticism. Some industry experts and critics claim that Privacy Sandbox somehow prevents website owners, agencies, and marketers from targeting and measuring their campaigns by leveraging their preferred combination of technologies.
In fact, they’re somehow bound to depend on Google-provided solutions. Some also contend that the new APIs may fail to replicate the functionality of the systems they were replacing. This will potentially degrade ad performance and violate EU law.
Google is projecting a collaborative industry effort while navigating the final stages of deprecating third-party cookies.
In fact, Google’s own report to the CMA acknowledged that User-Agent reduction and deployment of User-Agent Client Hints could slow down website load times.
It seems enthusiasm to play in Google’s Privacy Sandbox is far from unanimous. With the cookie crumbling, the digital ad ecosystem awaits the full rollout of Privacy Sandbox with bated breath.