Google is now rolling out Privacy Sandbox — its tech to replace third-party cookies — to all Chrome users. The company is touting this as a more privacy-forward feature, which tracks topics of interest based on your browsing habits. Advertisers can then use this data to show you relevant ads.
The company has been showing a new popup about Privacy Sandbox to users over the last few days. Users have complained about the pop-up not providing enough information about the cookie replacement tech and how the company will generate topics of interest based on browsing data if you click on "Got it." Investor Paul Graham even labeled this pop-up as "spyware."
Yep, I saw this too -> Google has been rolling out Chrome's “Enhanced Ad Privacy” via a popup, part of its Topics API; some say the “Got It” button is misleading as tracking is activehttps://t.co/5fyHA8wwmt pic.twitter.com/PLCjBYH6yu
— Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) September 6, 2023
As a part of the rollout, users will also get access to some controls for ads. If you have clicked on "Got it" when you saw the pop-up, the privacy sandbox experience will be enabled by default. You will have to head to Settings> Privacy and Security > Ad Privacy > Ad topics to turn it off. This will just stop advertisers from showing you targeted ads based on topics of interest.
The Ad Topics tab also lets users look at the topics generated by Chrome's system and block any that they deem irrelevant.
Google Chrome is a dominant web browser in the market with more than 60% market share, according to StatCounter. However, it has been the last in line to disable third-party cookies as rivals, such as Safari and Firefox, have been blocking third-party cookies for a while now.
Chrome's plan for phasing out cookies has faced several delays as the company wanted to roll out its alternative for targeted ads before blocking third-party cookies. In May, the company said it would turn off third-party cookies for all users by default in the second half of 2024. Google also mentioned at that time it will begin this rollout with 1% of users in Q1 2024.
Given that Chrome is such a big driver for web traffic, advertisers and developers are worried about the implications of adopting the new solution. For developers who want to test the new Privacy Sandbox environment, the company made the API public in July. The company has the intention of rolling out a simulation environment for developers to adjust to a cookie-less future. While advertisers have been toying with alternative methods to cookies, in markets like India, they are still spending a ton of money on the outgoing solution, according to Insider Intelligence.
While Google has lobbied that its solution brings an end to fallbacks of third-party cookies, entities such as the W3C Technical Architecture Group (TAG) have raised concerns regarding the search giant's implementation. They have said that because of Chromium-only support for the Topics API, sites could block users or limit the experience for folks using other browsers.
Marketing advocacy group Movement for the Open Web wrote a blog earlier this week saying that Google is gathering a lot of personal data through the Privacy Sandbox "sourced through an opt-in process that it’s hard for most web users to avoid."