Google has announced it will phase out third-party tracking cookies within two years -- and to be honest, there will not be a tear shed anywhere for them. The tech giant is positioning itself as a guardian of privacy here, but the reality is that the tiny pieces of code that follow us around the web were already on their way out.
Safari and Firefox has already allowed tracking to be switched off at browser level for two very simple reasons. The public doesn't like being followed around, and EU legislators are about to come down hard on them.
The ePrivacy Directive will come into law across the EU at some stage this year or next. Although its entrance has been delayed, its intention is clear. Digital marketing will need to be based more around informed consent. That was partly the role of GDPR in storing and processing data, but the ePrivacy Directive will move the debate onto using that data.
One of the biggest proposals, which remains in its draft form, is that users should be given the option to turn off tracking cookies at browser level. Rather than forcing them to block on a site by site basis, a simple click of a button on one occasion must be offered to turn third-party tracking cookies off.
So, while Safari and Firefox have seen the way the wind is blowing and have seized the opportunity to be compliant with an incoming law, Google has dragged its feet.
It is no surprise that Google is saying it will take two years to turn third-party tracking cookies off.
Just think about it. In the EU, when the ePrivacy Directive becomes law, it will be accompanied by a transition period, by which time it will need to be enforced.
For an educated guess, I would say we are at least a year off that final date right now -- and more realistically 18 months to two years away.
It's impossible to know until the Directive is adopted, but Google's timing is a pretty good indication of when the move will likely become legally enforceable.
So, far from protecting privacy, Google is pretty much accepting the direction of travel that will soon be forced upon it within the EU.
And just in case you were wondering whether it was just you that finds all those cookie permissions for individual sites annoying, you're not alone. Research featured in the BBC today suggests they are not only unpopular, but less than 12% are actually compliant with the GDPR. Most "bully" users into clicking 'ok' to continue and do not lay out the reader's legal options properly.
Given the internet's inability to offer any real choice on cookies, which the public do not particularly like, it is inevitable they were on their way out and the ePrivacy Directive is the final nail in the coffin.
You have to take your hat off to Google -- it's late to the cookie-crumbling party -- to the point where offering blocking is about to become a legal requirement, and yet still it portrays itself as the friend of those seeking privacy online.