Beginning early next year you’ll no longer have to accept or reject third-party cookies when visiting websites in Google Chrome.
As reported by The Verge, beginning on January 4, Google will begin testing its new Tracking Protection feature in Chrome that’s designed to restrict access to third-party cookies by default. It’s worth noting though that this feature will roll out to a small number of Chrome users at first before becoming generally available during the second half of 2024.
For the 1% of users that are selected to test out Tracking Protection early, they will receive a notification when they open Chrome on their computer or on one of the best Android phones. However, as some sites require third-party cookies to function properly, you may see a prompt asking if you want to temporarily re-enable them on a site-by-site basis.
Google’s plan to phase out third-party cookies once and for all has been a long time coming and in fact, the search giant first started working on this back in 2020. Tracking Protection was then rolled into the company’s Privacy Sandbox initiative.
For those unfamiliar with Privacy Sandbox, the idea is pretty simple. Instead of having websites drop third-party cookies onto your devices, several new Chrome APIs allow developers to target ads at audiences without them. You may have actually already seen Privacy Sandbox in action in the form of a pop-up explaining how enhanced ad privacy now works in chrome.
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Outlook: We may never truly be done with cookies
Back in 1994 when Netscape’s Lou Montulli invented the cookie, he wanted to create an easy way for websites to be able to remember users, according to Quartz. At that time, Montulli never intended for them to be used for cross-site tracking.
A year later though, the adtech firm DoubleClick realized that it could easily track users across the web by exploiting cookies. Google then acquired DoubleClick in 2008 in order to expand its advertising business. However, it wasn’t until the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) passed in 2016 that websites were required to get consent from users before tracking them using cookies.
Google has been working hard to figure out a way to do away with third-party cookies for good for the past few years and with 62.5% of the browser market share worldwide according to data from StatCounter, Chrome remains the most popular web browser. As such, other browsers like Apple’s Safari or Microsoft’s Edge could adopt something similar to Chrome’s Tracking Protection feature. However, this would need to be successful and work for both end users and advertisers before third-party cookies could be eliminated for good.
If Google’s work on Tracking Protection doesn’t pan out though, other browser makers and website owners would likely continue to use third-party cookies as they have been in use for over two decades at this point. Even if Tracking Protection does roll out smoothly, it will likely take a few years before third-party cookies truly become a thing of the past.
We’ll just have to wait and see and at Tom’s Guide, we’ll be following the roll out of Tracking Protection closely so that we can keep you informed regarding when Google’s cookie replacement will finally arrive in your browser.
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Anthony Spadafora is the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to password managers and the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. Before joining the team, he wrote for ITProPortal while living in Korea and later for TechRadar Pro after moving back to the US. Based in Houston, Texas, when he’s not writing Anthony can be found tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.