Google delays a year the definitive goodbye to third-party cookies | Digital Transformation | Technology


A woman walks past a Google logo at an import fair in Shanghai.
A woman walks past a Google logo at an import fair in Shanghai.By Han Guan / AP

The farewell of the cookies third party will take a year longer than expected. Google justifies the decision with the fact that it is still not clear how the industry will continue to collect user data when the technology giant removes these trace files from its Chrome browser, the most used in the world (its market share is of the 70%). “Despite the considerable progress carried out, it is evident that the entire ecosystem needs more time to carry out this process properly ”, says in a statement Vinay Goel, director of Privacy Engineering for the Mountain View company.

The cookies (literally, cookies in English) are digital files that remain on our devices every time we access a web page. They have been with us since at least 1995. They may have purely technical, analytical or advertising purposes. They allow, for example, that the websites we visit regularly remember our passwords (these are the so-called “first party”). But it is the cookies from third parties, those generated by providers other than the page on which you are browsing, which have promoted the development of the digital economy as we know it. Thanks to these lines of code, companies can access a large amount of information about us, such as our address, gender, age, IP number (unique identifier of the device), type of device from which we connect, at what time and how long we do it, where we click or what websites we have previously visited.

These data allow a very deep analysis of who enters a page and for what. The cookies They are the essential gear so that the so-called targeted or personalized advertising reaches the desired audiences, people who have specific habits. The tool that Google makes available to advertisers allows, for example, a barbecue company to show its ad only to users of a certain age range and purchasing power, who have a terrace or garden and show interest in cooking.

Google announced in 2020 its intention to remove cookies from third parties. Earlier this year it added that it has no intention of putting “alternative identifiers to track users who surf the net” instead. This important shift forces the advertising sector online, which last year moved some 260,000 million worldwide, to find an alternative way to get the information of the users who previously contributed the cookies from third parties.

“We must move forward at a responsible pace, allowing enough time for the most suitable solutions to be publicly discussed and for publishers and the advertising industry to migrate their services,” the company points out. Google justifies the withdrawal of cookies from third parties as a measure aimed at protecting the privacy of users. Industry sources add that the fact that ad blockers such as Adblock Plus or Ghostery, already used by 30% of Internet users, are making the Internet obsolete will also have influenced the decision. cookies.

In search of an alternative

“By providing technologies for the protection of personal data we will contribute, as a sector, to prevent the cookies are replaced by other forms of individual tracking and we will stop the rise of covert techniques such as the creation of fingerprints, “says Goel in the Google statement. The company’s commitment to fill the technological gap left by the cookies third party is the so-called Privacy Sandbox. It was introduced in 2019 as an “open initiative” whose goal is “to find solutions to create a thriving web ecosystem that is user-friendly and private by default”. The intention is that it is the browser that stores and processes the information about each user.

The star element of this system is the so-called FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts, or federated cohort learning). It is based on making groupings of users based on their tastes and hobbies based on the browsing history of the last week. The key, according to Google, is that these groups would be made anonymously, without knowing the identity of the individuals. The cohorts would have at least thousands of members, so it is difficult to identify individuals. The result, according to technology, would be a valid formula for companies to continue directing their advertising and users to maintain their privacy.

According to Google, so far more than 30 different proposals have been presented to face the world postcookies. Each of them goes through a review process that includes public discussions in specialized forums and essays in Chrome. This has been done, for example, with the first version of FLoC, which will incorporate suggestions from the community before testing it again.

The current Google calendar foresees having the new engine ready by the end of 2022, at which time a period of about nine months will open in which “publishers and the advertising sector will have the time necessary to migrate their services.” Starting in mid-2023, Chrome will begin phasing out third-party cookies, which will be completely gone by the end of that year.

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