Privacy Sandbox, Google’s answer to third-party cookies, is promised within months

Google said this week that some of its Privacy Sandbox tools will see general availability in Chrome 115 on July 18, in order to prepare for the slow phase-out of third-party cookies next year.

“Beginning with the July release of Chrome, and over the following weeks, we will be making the Measurement and Fit APIs of Privacy Sandbox available to all Chrome users,” Anthony Chavez, Vice President of Privacy Sandbox, said in an announcement. “With this achievement, developers can use these APIs to perform improved live traffic testing, as they prepare to work without third-party cookies.”

Since 2019, shortly after the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) took effect in Europe, Google has been working on various ways to deliver targeted ads without the use of intrusive third-party cookies — data deposited in people’s browsers by third-party scripts on websites that They can be misused to track people online and violate expectations of privacy.

The following year, the chocolate factory said it would phase out support for third-party cookies, leaving advertisers with little choice but to be content with the Privacy Sandbox ad technology. That took longer than expected because of regulatory entanglements, industry backlash, and privacy promises the technology couldn’t deliver at first.

The scheduled portion of the Privacy Sandbox consists of six APIs: Protected Audience (formerly FLEDGE), for remarketing (displaying ads based on a website’s past behavior on other websites); Topics (display targeted ads without selecting people); referral reports (measurement of ad interaction without third-party cookies); own compilation (private advertising reports); shared storage (sharing data across sites without sharing identifiers); and Fenced Frames (a cross-site data mechanism related).

By using these APIs, advertisers will have a way, without third party cookies, to target ads at those with specific interests and get data about how those ads are performing. And in theory, this would provide a measure of privacy beyond what is currently available.

Meanwhile, starting in the first quarter of 2024, Google plans to disable third-party cookies for just one percent of Chrome users, as a pilot measure to remove third-party cookies at a later date. Developers will be able to simulate an expected withdrawal of cookies starting in the fourth quarter of 2023. This aligns with a timeline that Google has committed to in consultation with the UK’s Competition and Markets Agency (CMA), to defuse criticism from rival ad firms.

However, that criticism, based on concern that Google will use privacy as an excuse to withhold ad metrics from competitors, hasn’t completely panned out.

said James Roswell, digital marketer and co-founder of marketers advocacy group Movement for an Open Web.

Privacy Sandbox removes the ability for website owners, agencies and marketers to target and measure their campaigns using their own set of technologies

“No one will accept all food retailers closing the home baking aisle and forcing everyone to buy their own brand bread. Why would anyone accept Google and Apple’s similar behavior in digital marketplaces? On Google, the CMA urgently needs to review the commitments and police them.” effectively “.

Roswell argues that the Privacy Sandbox APIs fail to reproduce the functionality of the systems they are designed to replace with degraded ad performance and potentially violate EU law.

He cites a website performance penalty that has been documented when using Google’s new advertising technology. As reported in Google’s own report to the CMA, reducing User-Agent and deploying User-Agent Client Hints makes websites load slower – about 50ms on average using the First Contentful Paint metric, which informs a site’s search rank among other things. other.

Roswell also refers to Article 26 of the EU Digital Services Act, which requires large online publishers to display data about advertisers to website visitors. He claims that the Google Fenced Frames API will prevent anyone other than Google from seeing this information.

Google’s Chavez describes a friendlier scenario in which the search sector would cooperate”[s] With participants across the industry, as we reach the final stages of our journey to stop third-party cookies in Chrome, and improve privacy across the web for everyone.”

This may overstate the advertising industry’s enthusiasm for playing into Google’s privacy protection box. ®

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