Google is keeping alive its quest to replace third-party cookies in Chrome, and has managed to overcome a major hurdle in the UK. The Californian company received approval from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to work on Privacy Sandbox, the initiative that seeks to create new technologies for the online advertising market without compromising user privacy.
But this does not mean that Google already has the approval of the regulators to actively implement the replacement of third-party cookies in Chrome. What the CMA has done is accept the commitments made by the Mountain Viewers on how they will develop the next standards without affecting competition or gaining an unfair advantage.
The commitments we have obtained from Google will promote competition, help protect online publishers’ ability to earn money through advertising, and safeguard user privacy. While this is an important step, we are under no illusion that our work is done. We now move into a new phase where we will closely follow Google as it continues to develop these proposals.
Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive of the UK Markets and Competition Authority
So what the CMA has approved is the way Google has promised to work, and not a particular development for Chrome. It seems like a very early step for the company, but it is clear that they do not want to repeat the controversy of when the “death” of third-party cookies and their replacement with FloC was announced.
Among the commitments assumed by Google for its Privacy Sandbox, the active involvement of the CMA and the Office of the Information Commissioner stands out; this covers both the development and the tests to be carried out on the technologies in question. And the company will not be able to share the data collected with other areas of the same business to avoid an unfair advantage.
In addition, Google will not remove third-party cookies in Chrome until UK regulators give the go-ahead for their replacement. And even if it receives approval, those in Mountain View will have to wait a minimum of 60 days to implement it; thus, the authorities will seek to resolve any type of concern related to competition that may still be present.
After the FloC fiasco, Google wants to remove third-party cookies in Chrome with Topics
Cookies vs. Topics
Google announced its plan to remove third-party cookies in Chrome in 2020. However, the experience was far from positive. FloC, the technology that would replace them, generated a strong rejection in other companies, as well as a lot of confusion among the public.
The impact on user privacy, due to the fact that the analysis of behavior patterns when browsing the web allowed people to be micro-segmented even individually, was the main reason for repudiating this technology.
Google took notice and changed the approach with the introduction of Topics, a new API for Chrome. It proposes to use the last three weeks of the public’s browsing history to create a ranking of interests; thus, this tool will choose three topics at random from that list and use them to display ads. Those of Mountain View assure that it is a more transparent and private method than FloC to no longer depend on third-party cookies.
An important point to note is that the commitments approved by the British CMA are legally binding. Additionally, if UK regulators give the go-ahead to the new Privacy Sandbox standards, Google will implement them globally.
“We believe these commitments will ensure that competition continues to thrive, while also providing flexibility in designing the Privacy Sandbox APIs in a way that will enhance people’s privacy online,” Mountain View explained.
The commitments approved by the UK Competition and Markets Authority will be valid for six years, counting from this February 11; Unless Google releases its new alternative for third-party cookies in Chrome sooner, of course.