Privacy Sandbox Initiative: Google to Phase Out Third-Party Cookies Starting 2024

Google has announced plans to officially flip the switch on its twice-delayed Privacy Sandbox initiatives as it slowly works its way to deprecate support for third-party cookies in Chrome browser.

To that end, the search and advertising giant said it intends to phase out third-party cookies for 1% of Chrome users globally in the first quarter of 2024.

“This will support developers in conducting real world experiments that assess the readiness and effectiveness of their products without third-party cookies,” Anthony Chavez, vice president of Privacy Sandbox at Google, said.

Prior to rolling this out, Google said it would introduce the ability for third-party developers to simulate the process for a configurable subset of their users (up to 10%) in Q4 2023.

Google further emphasized that the plans have been designed and developed with regulatory oversight and input from the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which is overseeing the implementation to ensure that the proposals don’t tilt the level playing field in the company’s favor.

Privacy Sandbox is a two-pronged project for the web and Android that aims to limit covert tracking by eliminating the need for third-party cookies and cross-app identifiers and still serving relevant content and ads in a privacy-preserving manner.

Google, earlier this February, began testing Privacy Sandbox on Android in beta to eligible mobile devices running Android 13.

The Privacy Sandbox APIs, including Topics, are expected to be generally available to all users without the need to participate in an origin trial in Chrome 115, which is set for a late July 2023 release.

The idea, in a nutshell, is to infer coarse-grained interest signals (called topics) on-device based on users’ browsing activity for a one-week period (called epoch) and share that information with ad tech vendors to serve targeted ads.

It also aims to give users control over their evolving interests, with the categories selected for each epoch randomly selected from the most frequently visited topics for that time period.

Google’s objective is to completely turn off third-party cookies in Chrome in the second half of 2024, although the company noted that the timeline could change subject to stakeholder discussions, feedback, and testing.

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