Google is delaying the implementation of the controversial Privacy Sandbox until the end of 2023. The company says it needs more time together with the advertising industry for a proper implementation. The deletion of tracking cookies in Chrome will now only happen at the end of 2023.
Google says in a blog post that it has “become clear that more time is needed” to set up the initiative properly. The initial plan was to remove all tracking cookies from Chrome by the end of 2021. Google will continue to consult with the industry and test the technologies in the coming months. That will last until at least the end of 2022, when a new version of Chrome will be released that will include the Privacy Sandbox APIs. “During this first phase, publishers and the ad industry will have to migrate their services,” Google said.
This transition period lasts about nine months, until mid or late 2023. Then there will be a period of three months in which all third-party cookies will be permanently phased out. The delay has to do with a few reasons, although Google itself mainly mentions the discussion with the advertising and internet industry. “We believe the community should come together to develop open standards to improve privacy on the Internet,” the company said. This requires ‘a responsible pace’. This discussion has been going on since 2019, when Google announced the initiative, but it has been difficult because Google has been criticized a lot. Critics say that Google is abusing its dominant position, that Privacy Sandbox makes for more privacy-unfriendly tracking, and that many technological problems have not yet been solved.
Another reason for the delay is the UK market watchdog’s investigation into Privacy Sandbox. The Competitions and Markets Authority is investigating whether Google does not violate competition rules with the initiative by giving itself too powerful a position. Google recently made several commitments to the CMA, but the regulator still started a consultation, which means that it may take a long time before the investigation is completed.
It probably also plays a role that Privacy Sandbox is far from being ready for implementation and that it can’t happen before the end of this year. Privacy Sandbox consists of thirty different APIs, each of which is intended to replace a different function of tracking cookies. Of those thirty APIs, only a few are still being actively tested. The best known of these is FLoC or Federated Learning of Cohorts. That one initiative alone has been met with a lot of criticism. For most of the other APIs only a proposal has been put on paper, but no technical documentation or implementation exists yet.