Google has found itself in between a rock and a hard place when it comes to the methods used by Chrome for tracking users’ online behavior. On one hand, you have users that want privacy and are looking for a browser that allows them to easily manage and limit the number of cookies that come along for the ride during a given browsing session. On the other hand, third parties rely heavily on these tracking tools to optimize advertising that results in more profitable business. If Google doesn’t bend to the millions of Chrome users around the world, they lose credibility and many will migrate to other options.
The other side of that very deadly sword comes from regulators that see Google as a potential monopoly in the advertising space. Removing third-party trackers uproots any ad/tracking potential from these third parties and ostensibly gives Google an insurmountable edge in the space and in turn, puts regulators on edge despite Google’s attempt to appease all parties involved. So, what is Google’s solution for this seemingly unsolvable conundrum? Privacy Sandboxes. If you’re like me, you have no idea what that means. What is a Privacy Sandbox according to Google’s implementation?
The Privacy Sandbox initiative proposes a set of privacy-preserving APIs to support business models that fund the open web in the absence of tracking mechanisms like third-party cookies. It was introduced in 2019, and Chrome shared updates on progress in January and October last year.Chrome Developers
If you care anything about your online privacy or cookie tracking, you’ve likely seen the term FLoC thrown around a lot lately. FLoC is short for the Federated Learning of Cohorts API and while few know the exact details of how it works, the goal is to aggregate user data based on a group’s similar data sets instead of an individual’s browsing history. However, this is not an easy task. We’re talking about ripping out the very core of how online advertising and targeted data has worked for years. Not to mention the fact that a lot of companies – like Amazon and DuckDuck Go – aren’t exactly on board with Google’s FLoC.
With all the pushback and the depth of this undertaking, Google has announced today that the Privacy Sandbox timeline is being extended to 2023. According to the blog post, this is to set a responsible pace for the development of the Privacy Sandbox in order to preserve privacy while not damaging the revenue of publishers that create ad-supported, free content.
In order to do this, we need to move at a responsible pace. This will allow sufficient time for public discussion on the right solutions, continued engagement with regulators, and for publishers and the advertising industry to migrate their services.The Keyword
It is clear that Google’s initiative is still a major work in progress and I doubt that the end product will look anything like it did at its birth. In order for the Privacy Sandbox to succeed, Google will need to get the entire industry on board while providing the tools need for a smooth transition with minimal monetary blowback. Additionally, whatever agreements are made will need to pacify the regulatory entities that oversee fair practices. Google is not a stranger to the scrutiny of these groups but the Chrome browser is one area where the company can not afford to take any uncalculated risks.
The new timeline will see the testing phase of the Privacy Sandbox pushed back to late 2022 at which time publishers and advertisers will be given time to migrate related services. This period is expected to last for roughly nine months. In mid-2023, Google will begin the process of removing support for third-party cookies and after three months, they will be fully removed from Chrome. For more details on the update and future development of the Privacy Sandbox, head over to The Keyword.