The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has put a halt to Google’s plans to eliminate third-party cookies, stating that these actions cannot progress until their concerns are adequately addressed, causing further unease within the sector. The anticipated finalization of this phase-out has been scheduled for the end of this year after several deferrals. However, the CMA’s recent report on Google’s Privacy Sandbox commitments highlights that although Google is currently meeting the demands, there are still substantial issues that need consideration before fully discarding third-party cookies.
As part of the transition to a post-cookie digital environment, the CMA has laid out essential measures for Google to foster a competitive market, focusing on two main points. Firstly, Google must not utilize the Privacy Sandbox proposals in a manner that further strengthens its advertisement products, such as Google Ad Manager. Secondly, it needs to clarify its long-term governance plans for its Privacy Sandbox. To address these points, the CMA encourages feedback from interested parties as they continue discussions with Google, aiming to resolve these issues by the standstill period.
Specific aspects of the Privacy Sandbox tools also require attention, including the potential impact of the Topics API targeting alternative on smaller tech businesses and determining who will govern the Topics API taxonomy. Further, Google must provide additional assurances about the future development of these tools and maintain ongoing engagement with industry stakeholders.
In response to the CMA’s concerns, Google has expressed intent to proceed with the deprecation of third-party cookies in the second half of 2024, contingent on resolving any remaining competition concerns put forth by the CMA. They remain optimistic about the industry’s capability to adapt within the new timeline thanks to significant progress made by leading companies. The next update on this matter from the CMA is expected in April, which will include information on the impact of disabling cookies for approximately 32 million Chrome users, accounting for 1% of their user base.