The Google Chrome browser will continue to accept third-party cookies, after the internet giant’s plan to remove them completely has been delayed by pressure from lawmakers and regulators.
Cookies are small pieces of information stored in the browser, which can be used to save data such as the session of the pages we use; but they are also very useful for tracking users on the Internet, registering all the pages they visit and their interests. It is thanks to these cookies and other technologies that we see personalized advertisements, for example.
Google’s empire has been built largely thanks to these types of cookies, but times have changed; privacy is increasingly important to users, and there are already browsers that completely block these cookies. The solution, according to Google, is a new system called FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts), which instead of tracking specific users, puts them in large groups of common interests.
Google’s goal was to take advantage of the great popularity of its Chrome web browser to implement this technology so that websites and other advertising companies have no choice but to use it. But that plan has suffered another setback.
Today, Google has confirmed that Chrome will continue to have third-party cookie support at least until mid-2023, a year after it was announced. Furthermore, the company admits that this implementation is subject to agreements with the UK authorities; But these are not the only ones that have warned of possible problems, both due to monopoly practices and privacy. Last April, the top data protection officers in France, Germany and Belgium confirmed that they were following in Google’s footsteps with interest.
The FLoC problem
The problem is not so much in eliminating third-party cookies, which are a recognized problem, but in what will replace them, FLoC. Although Google presents it as a more private alternative, there is no shortage of critics who point out that it could serve to find out even more about Internet users.
With FLoC, the browser analyzes the pages we visit and assigns us to different interest groups ; The advertising company will show us advertisements related to our interests, but it will not be able to know more, as it can with cookies.
But, as critics like the American EFF and competitors like Brave or Vivaldi have pointed out, that does not prevent tracking a person; in fact, it could make it easier, since each interest group would be made up of only a few thousand users, and they would not have to distinguish between billions of people like now. Techniques such as “fingerprinting”, or comparison with data obtained by other methods can be used to identify a user.
This delay does not mean that Google has given up, far from it. Especially since third-party cookies may well have their days numbered, and the online advertising industry may face the biggest crisis in its history if there is no viable alternative.