Ad Industry Blasts Google's Cookie-Blocking Plan

The ad industry is asking Google to reconsider its plan to configure the Chrome browser to block cookies set by ad-tech companies and other third parties.

The move, set to take effect by 2022, could “choke off the economic oxygen from advertising that startups and emerging companies need to survive,” the Association of National Advertisers and American Association of Advertising Agencies said in a statement issued Thursday.

They are urging Google to “publicly and quickly commit to not imposing this moratorium on third party cookies until effective and meaningful alternatives are available.”

The groups are responding to Google's announcement that Chrome plans to automatically prevent ad networks and other third parties from setting cookies.

The company said it will take steps to prevent digital fingerprinting -- a controversial tracking technique that involves identifying users based on their devices' operating systems, IP addresses, browser versions, installed fonts and plug-ins, and other data.

The ad organizations stated they are “deeply disappointed that Google would unilaterally declare such a major change without prior careful consultation across the digital and advertising industries.”

They add that they plan to “work with stakeholders and policymakers to ensure that there are effective and competitive alternatives available prior to Google’s planned change fully taking effect.”

Google isn't the only browser developer to take steps to limit tracking by ad-tech companies.

Mozilla's newest version of Firefox aims to prevent digital fingerprinting by blocking third-party requests to companies that are believed to use the technology. Firefox also now automatically blocks cookies set by third parties.

Apple's Safari browser has long blocked third-party tracking cookies by default. That company also deletes some first-party cookies -- meaning cookies set by web sites that consumers intentionally visit -- in order to prevent companies from circumventing the ban on tracking. 

Safari also aims to automatically restrict device fingerprinting.

The ad industry has historically opposed moves by browser developers to prevent tracking.

Back in 2013, when Mozilla first floated a plan to block third-party cookies, the ANA characterized the proposal as “dangerous and highly disturbing," adding it would be "extraordinarily counterproductive for consumers and business."

Ad groups similarly blasted Apple in 2018 for rolling out Safari privacy settings that aim to defeat device fingerprinting and other forms of tracking.

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