Third-party cookies are dead. Now what?

Earlier this year, Google announced its plans to phase out support for third-party cookies in its Chrome browser as it looks to build a more private web. The transition, which was announced in January and comes, at least in part, in response to increasing regulatory scrutiny, will occur over the next two years. In making the change, the internet giant joins Safari, Firefox, and other web browsers in blocking the small bits of code that advertisers have long used to track what people do online so that they can deliver targeted ads.

Given that Chrome currently controls 64 percent of global browser share, it’s a decision that has captured a lot of attention. While it’s great news for users, since eliminating third-party cookies will lead to more privacy, for advertisers, it has some serious implications. The change is intended to incite advertising companies, publishers, and other browser providers to help Google create a new set of privacy-focused, open web standards. Practically speaking, however, it poses some pretty significant challenges for the scores of businesses that rely on online advertising.

An uncertain road ahead

While Google maintains that eliminating third-party cookies will make browsing the web more secure, for the countless businesses that use cookies to facilitate their advertising, it promises to be a major disruption. Retargeting and data management companies, for example, now face the considerable challenge of rethinking their entire business model. Further complicating matters is the fact that the decision could prompt less ethical advertisers to resort to more questionable forms of tracking, such as browser and device fingerprinting.

Yet many advertisers and publishers see the change as an opportunity. They argue that digital advertising has long been inaccurate because of third-party cookies’ shortcomings, such as the fact that they’re not tied to any individual person. As such, they see the change as heralding a new frontier in digital advertising, while also paving the way for fresh innovation in old ad formats.

Of course, Google itself probably stands to benefit most from the decision since its advertising model doesn’t depend on cookies for tracking. Practically speaking, that means the company is giving itself an advantage over other advertisers. By abandoning support of third-party cookies, it’s effectively depriving them of people’s personal data while still using it themselves to generate massive profits.

Nevertheless, Google says that it remains committed to working with other advertisers. In August 2019, the company announced Privacy Sandbox, a new initiative to develop a set of open standards to fundamentally enhance privacy on the web. In a blog post, Justin Schuh, Director of Chrome engineering noted, “We are confident that with continued iteration and feedback, privacy-preserving and open-standard mechanisms like the Privacy Sandbox can sustain a healthy, ad-supported web in a way that will render third-party cookies obsolete.” Exactly how that will play out remains to be seen.

Living in a cookie-free world

While many companies are scrambling in the wake of Google’s decision, not every business is affected. Here at, for example, our products don’t rely on cookies or tracking scripts and never have. We take a rigorous approach to consumer privacy and have always been focused on delivering best-in-class privacy standards. In fact, we’re the first AI-powered consumer intelligence network to be privacy by design certified.

While Google’s decision is a step forward for ensuring personal privacy, the company still has a long way to go to maintain the ongoing trust of the public. As it phases out support for third-party cookies, all eyes will be watching.


Want to learn more?

Responsible AI is part of our DNA. It underscores everything we do and is something we know a lot about.

Let's Talk