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Google's Chrome browser will not fully block tracking cookies until late 2023, according to Alphabet Inc. The announcement came on June 24, and this delay by almost two years has drawn antitrust concerns from regulators and Google's competitors.

Google's Chrome Browser Delays Blocking of Cookies

Earlier this year, Google expressed their desire to ban tracking cookies that third-party ad companies use to gather browsing history data of users, according to The Wall Street Journal.

However, the said third-party companies accused Google of using its own improved privacy guidelines to its advantage by gathering users' data to gain greater market share.

Google's initial time frame of the ban was January 2022, but after a thorough investigation, UK's Competition and Markets Authority or CMA agreed with Google to oversee the Chrome browser changes. Google stated that its new timeline of late 2023 is in line with the agreement.

Also Read: Google's 'Privacy-Preserving' System FLoC Has Several Privacy Issues, Firefox Says

Vinay Goel, the privacy engineering director for Chrome, wrote in a blog post that the delay would give the publishers, the ad industry, and the regulators more time to get comfortable with the new technologies that Google is currently developing and testing.

These technologies are said to replace the current tracking capabilities of Chrome's cookies with better protection for the users' online privacy.

The CMA are not the only ones that are investigating Chrome and the cookies. According to Reuters, the US Department of Justice is also working on its own investigation of Chrome's antitrust cases, and the European Union's competition commission also launched its own investigation.

Google now aims to choose new techniques by 2022, run their final tests, and phase out tracking cookies by mid-2023, if CMA allows it.

Third-Party Cookies Alternatives

Out of all the alternatives that Google is currently testing, there is one that stands out. In January, Google shared its new findings and showed the effectiveness of its Federated Learning of Cohorts or FLoC proposal that is a part of the Chrome browser's Privacy Sandbox.

FLoC is Google's way of showing adverts that they believe users are interested in. Google claims that FLoC is 95% as effective as cookies, according to Wired.

The Privacy Sandbox is an initiative that Google launched in 2019 to find alternatives to the tracking cookies while mitigating the impact on publishers.

Basically, it is about finding a solution that protects the users' privacy and lets the contents remain free on the web.

Chetna Bindra, the group product manager for user trust and privacy at Google, told CNBC that the FLoC proposal is not the final proposal and it is not the only proposal to replace third-party cookies, but it is the most promising.

Bindra added that Google is confident about the progress on the proposals and tests so far and will soon announce the final alternative for tracking cookies on its Chrome web browser.

However, some privacy advocates are skeptical of the effectiveness of the FLoC proposal. In 2019, the Electronic Frontier Foundation or EFF wrote that these cohorts could be used in harmful ways, such as letting discriminatory advertisers identify and filter groups of minorities.

Whether FLoC would create cohorts based on the sensitive attributes of minorities is still a question left unanswered.

Related Article: Google Plans to Stop Selling Ads: What's Next After Phasing Out Browser Cookies?

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Written by Sophie Webster

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