On Friday the digital adverting world took one giant, collective sigh of relief as Google announced that it would be pushing back the deprecation of  third-party cookies until 2023, with Chrome Privacy Engineering Director, Vinay Goel stating “more time is needed across the ecosystem to get this right.

The news was widely greeted with feelings of relief as developers, advertising companies and clients alike all realised they have a lot more time to work on preparing for the cookieless world of the future. But although the general sentiment was positive (I mean who doesn’t like having more time!?) the news also raised more confusion and of course more questions.

Why are cookies being deprecated anyway?

As a reminder, the original plan was for Google to start phasing out the use of  third-party cookies in 2021 as it looked to introduce more privacy-centric solutions that would still allow for highly targeted advertising but with more control over the use of people’s data.

This move has come after years of increasing pressure on all the tech giants to put more procedures in place to protect people’s data (think GDPR and the Apple iOS 14 update) with cookies being seen as outdated, unsecure, and not fit for purpose in the future.

So why is it being delayed?

For a long time now, Google has been working on solutions to replace  third-party cookies, with its “privacy sandbox” initiative coming up with a number of potential solutions for the future. But here is where the issue comes into play as a lot of these solutions appear to put more control into Google’s hands, giving it even more ownership over the data (albeit more privately) and therefore increasing the advertising world’s reliance on them.

This puts Google in-between a rock and a hard place as it tries to create solutions that ease the worries around privacy but without simply taking complete control over data and destroying all competition in the market.

As part of the announcements on Friday, the UK’s competition regulator – the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) – announced that Google has agreed to address concerns about its plan to remove third-party cookies from Chrome.

This comes following a joint investigation into the “privacy sandbox” proposals by the CMA and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the UK’s data protection regulator.

Basically, Google has agreed to involve regulators within this process and not discriminate against its rivals in favour of its own advertising business. As they say themselves, the two year delay “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.”

So is this positive news?

Well, some would argue no as it means the advertising industry as a whole will continue to rely on an outdated solution that doesn’t put privacy first.

However, I think in the long term this is positive news as although it means we will continue to use  third-party cookies for another two years, it means we have more time, as an industry, to come up with better, privacy-centric solutions and at the same time make sure that it doesn’t put all the power in Google’s hands alone.

What should you do now?

The main positive thing here for all of us on the ground is we are now blessed with more time, but in terms of what we should do with that time I’d say it’s the same steps we discussed in our recent blog on how to prepare for a cookieless future still apply.

It’s important to stay informed and keep abreast of the latest developments over the coming two years, which we will continue to publish here on our blog. And at the same time, it’s still important to get a solid grip on your current use of  third-party cookies as well as your own first-party data collection capabilities, as these two areas will be increasingly important as we do eventually reach the end of cookies.

If you would like to discuss your approach to a cookieless future please get in touch with our digital specialists here.

Matt Read, Group Head of Digital