Google to Test Tracking Protection Feature on Chrome, Antitrust Concerns Linger

Alphabet’s Google announced its imminent trial of a new Chrome browser feature aimed at eliminating third-party cookies used by advertisers to track consumers, as part of a broader initiative to enhance user privacy.
Google Play StoreDubbed “Tracking Protection,” the feature is slated for an initial rollout to 1 percent of Chrome users globally on January 4, restricting cross-site tracking by default.

Google’s ambitious plan entails a complete cessation of third-party cookie usage for users by the second half of 2024. However, the execution timeline remains contingent upon addressing antitrust concerns raised by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), as communicated by Google.

The CMA has been actively scrutinizing Google’s intentions to curtail support for certain cookies in Chrome, expressing apprehensions regarding potential adverse impacts on competition in digital advertising. The watchdog is closely monitoring Google’s primary revenue stream: advertising.

Third-party cookies, specialized files enabling websites and advertisers to pinpoint individual web users and monitor their browsing patterns, have become a linchpin of online advertising strategies.

Margrethe Vestager, the European Union antitrust chief, reiterated in June the agency’s ongoing investigation into Google’s deployment of tools designed to block third-party cookies, an integral facet of the company’s “Privacy Sandbox” initiative.

Advertisers have expressed concerns over the ramifications of losing cookies within the world’s most widely used browser, citing limitations in collecting personalized ad data and potential reliance on Google’s user databases, Reuters news report said.

According to BofA Global Research, the cookie phase-out could potentially shift power dynamics in favor of media agencies adept at offering expansive proprietary insights to advertisers. This shift highlights the evolving landscape of digital advertising amidst Google’s privacy-focused initiatives.

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