Privacy Sandbox and the Countdown to Cookieless

We’re now one quarter in from Google removing tracking cookies from 1% of Chrome browsers, (around 300 million users) having cookies removed, and depreciation is set to continue steadily until autumn 2024.

In that time, Google’s Privacy Sandbox, the final phase in the deprecation of the third-party cookie, has come under fire from some quarters of the industry.

Google has kicked the can a couple of times (welcome relief, simply delaying the inevitable, or both). Assuming Q4 is the final deadline, how is Privacy Sandbox shaping up?

Despite the inevitable shift towards a more privacy-conscious advertising landscape, the ad tech sector’s eagerness to participate in the Privacy Sandbox has been varied. With that in mind, we asked a few industry luminaries their thoughts on what progress is being made with the countdown to cookieless well and truly on.

What the industry thinks

Industry-wide collaboration is key in this next phase

In a post-cookie world, our advertisers see GPS as a potentially useful way to gain insights into campaign activation on Chrome. We are actively testing with advertisers and providing feedback on how best to improve the platform, as industry-wide collaboration is critical to getting our clients the solutions they need.

We’re aware of the limitations of GPS here and believe that some of its existing functionalities have to change to better protect consumer privacy but overall we are excited about the progress that has been made here to help the industry move faster, collaborate and build on the existing solution. If testing yields positive results for our clients, we believe that GPS could form a core part of our integrated approach to identity and reflects our commitment to user privacy.

Alice Beecroft, senior director, global strategy & partnerships, Yahoo.

This is a call to action for advertisers to invest in consumer privacy protection

We’re pleased Google is proactively engaging with the industry, as it could have mirrored Safari’s approach and disabled cookies without any consultation with the wider market. However, the reality is the Privacy Sandbox is yet to be proven, and the current 2024 timeline to complete the cookie deprecation for all users can still shift.

Whether the cookie disappears from Chrome in 2024 or 2025 doesn’t matter: we’re at a decisive turning point in the protection of consumer privacy. This journey began way before Google made the decision to switch off cookies, and advertisers can no longer look the other way. It’s time for them to invest in tested and proven solutions that will allow them to scale without being dependent on this timeline or future industry decisions.

Wilfried Schobeiri, CTO at Ogury

The industry is lacking preparedness

It’s still early to draw conclusions about the impact of cookie deprecation and the usefulness of Google

Privacy Sandbox. What is clear, however, is that across the industry there should be a bigger push to prepare as we reach a crucial period for testing a variety of post-cookie solutions.

The amount of requests we received containing Topics grew significantly during Q1 2024 and we’re currently testing several aspects of targeting performance with our partners. Alongside Topics, ad spend on PAAPI testing has also grown since the start of January, although this remains relatively small compared to more traditional programmatic channels.

Gil Sommer, VP, Product, OpenX

The current implementation of the Privacy Sandbox has led to concerns

Google's Privacy Sandbox was introduced to offer advertisers alternative solutions following the phasing out of third-party cookies. However, the current implementation of the Privacy Sandbox has led to concerns. Google has developed a set of APIs that grant the company considerable control over various capabilities of advertising platforms in Chrome, extending beyond privacy and user identification.

These APIs are notably limited in functionality compared to traditional programmatic advertising methods. For instance, real-time decision-making processes, such as creative selection, budget pacing, frequency management, dynamic pricing, and many other bidding concepts are not fully supported. Additionally, Google intends to transition from event-based reporting towards higher-level aggregated reporting, potentially reducing the granularity of data available to advertisers.

Those in the industry believe the Privacy Sandbox will hinder competition and innovation among its rivals. Consequently, there has been limited interest and motivation among advertising platforms to adopt the Privacy Sandbox in its current state

Yang Han, co-founder and CTO, StackAdapt

Google's bid for privacy with advertising is in limbo

Google's Privacy Sandbox initiative marks a seismic shift in how tech giants handle user privacy and online advertising. With the imminent end of cookies, it champions new web standards to enhance user privacy while maintaining effective ad targeting and measurement. Yet, despite its efforts to bolster privacy and support ad effectiveness, concerns persist. These uncertainties revolve around the current inability to deliver key advertising use cases, Google's commercial assurances, and the complexity to shift to this new paradigm while maintaining interoperability between platforms and keeping on delivery value for all players of the value chain.

Additionally, there's ambiguity over whether media buyers will favour Google's environments or opt for walled gardens. Still, other privacy preserving alternatives exist for the open web and Privacy Sandbox should not be considered as the unique way to solve cookie deprecation.   

Benoit Hucafol, VP of product management, Equativ