Data Protection & PrivacyNews

Google plans to phase out third party cookies, changes process of ads

Tech giant Google has announced that it will stop selling ads based on tracked individual browsing history. In fact, they will not track anyone individually ever again or build any software that can track the users for advertisement purposes. And as a result, Google will phase out all third party cookies. This move is the result of privacy concerns raised by the privacy advocates and the awareness for privacy rights in users.

How Google ads operate? 

At one point of time, Google was criticized for too many cookies in its browser, Google Chrome. It was considered as a surveillance software by Privacy activists. Google’s ads driven business model, lets websites and advertisers track user behaviour on the web using third party cookies. Until now, if a user searches anything on the google search engine, the information is tracked by the third party cookies supported by the Google. These third party cookies provide information to the businesses about the user behaviour and google and websites associated with Google give adverts related to user behaviour.  

What is new? 

Google’s director of product management for ads privacy and trust, David Temkin announced, “Instead, our web products will be powered by privacy-preserving APIs which prevent individual tracking while still delivering results for advertisers and publishers,”  

“Advances in aggregation, anonymization, on-device processing and other privacy-preserving technologies offer a clear path to replacing individual identifiers.” 

Introduction of FLoC for Ad Targeting  

Google plans to switch to a new framework called the “Privacy Sandbox”. This aims to maintain anonymity while delivering targeted ads without intrusive techniques like fingerprinting.  

To replace third party cookies, Google proposed a new continuously evolving ad targeting and measurements method, ‘Federated Learning of Cohorts’ (FLoC) and TURTLEDOVE. 

FLoC aims to classify online users into groups based on similar browsing history using on-device machine learning technique. FLoC generates a cohort ID to associate each user’s browser sharing. Using this technique websites and online marketers can target the ads to the groups instead of individual. This means now google will allow group behaviour profiling instead of individual profiling. This will safeguard the individual privacy.

There is another method called TURTLEDOVE and it has one extension called, “FLEDGE”. It suggests a new method for adverts and ad tech companies to target an ad to a group of people they had previously. This method will not disclose other information about the user’s browsing habits or ad interests.  

Google will start testing FLoC this month with Chrome 89. In second quarter, they plan to extend the trials to advertisers in Google Ads.  


Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) equated FLoC to a “behavioral credit score,” calling it a “terrible idea”. It will create new privacy risks, such as the likelihood of websites to uniquely fingerprint FLoC users and access more personal information than required to serve relevant ads. It will change the underlying infrastructure involves sharing new information with advertisers. 

It will be interesting to see how in future this ad serving technology will respect the individual privacy and will it be able to improve user trust in chrome browser.  

Note: Apple’s Safari Browser and Mozilla Firefox already phased out all third party cookies long ago.

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Adv. Bhagyashree Swami

Bhagyashree is a qualified advocate practicing in criminal/ cyber law and a certified CIPP/ E data protection professional. She has a great academic record with a LLM degree in Computer and Communication Laws from Queen Mary University of London. She also holds technical expertise in the area of digital forensics and investigation.

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