Commentary

Google Accepts The Cookie Is Finally Crumbling

Forget the Brexit chime from Big Ben -- it sounds loud and clear in adland that the cookie is finally on its way out.

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.

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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. 

1 comment about "Google Accepts The Cookie Is Finally Crumbling".
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  1. Mike O'Neill from Baycoud Systems, January 16, 2020 at 10:47 a.m.

    The ePrivacy Directive has been law since 2002, and the amended opted-out by default since 2009 (enacted in the UK in 2011).

    It has been illegal to use cookies without consent since then. The problem was it was not enforced, though that is now happening.

    What you are referreing to in the ePrivacy Regulation. The European Parliament agreed its version of the text for it in 2017, but the European Council has not been able to - hence the delay.

    It does not make much difference to the requirement for up-front consent though as the Directive is already established, and CJEU rulings based on it exist (e.g. Planet49).

    The Parliament's text would have been very useful as it would have allowed web analytics without opt-in consent, as long as they were privacy preserving and there was a real ability to opt-out, but the failure of the Council to agree (with the"help" of "industry lobbyists") stopped that.



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