Privacy Sandbox: What Happens Next?

Cookie deprecation has once again been kicked down the road. So how are the industry preparing for the drawn-out demise? Is privacy still a priority? John Still asks an expert panel.

So, cookie deprecation is no longer imminent. When Google announced that the removal of third-party cookies from Chrome was to be delayed until 2025, the third major kicking of that can, it came as no real surprise. But, did it remove some of the urgency behind the moves towards a more privacy-centric ad tech ecosystem? It certainly offers more time for testing and experimenting in Google’s own Privacy Sandbox, the much discussed replacement for cookies

We asked a panel of industry experts their thoughts on the current state of play with the Privacy Sandbox, the response to the deprecation delay, and whether the industry is still on the front foot as regards privacy.

What the industry thinks:

“The train has left the station.”

All is not lost! The initial spark of cookie deprecation has delivered in bounds to the industry and influx of alternatives to addressability.  

Prior to this, the very notion of a consent first internet was just theory, however over the last few years advertising technology has responded to make advertising with consent more than just a legislative requirement, the industry is empowering the ethical application of data and bringing back ownership to those who own data. The benefit-improved monetisation to those place the highest value on consented information, improved efficacy of data assets, less wastage of an advertisers budget on inferred consumers, and most of all a better online experience for customers.

Privacy sandbox may not stand up today, but its premise started an evolution for better advertising practices, and the outlook is bright for those that have stood up alternatives and invested in their consumer experiences.

The train has left the station (and for anyone in the UK we all know these rarely depart on time) but there is high expectation, and increased pressure across the advertising ecosystem to deliver advertising in a privacy-centric world, whilst maintaining a free internet outside of the walled gardens. 

Fern Potter, SVP Strategy & Partnerships, Multilocal

“Companies should adopt a cautious approach.”

The industry's response to the most recent delay in Privacy Sandbox deprecation should be strategic and measured. This delay, primarily to address the UK CMA's Q1 2024 report and industry concerns, offers a crucial window for stakeholders — Google, regulatory bodies, and industry players — to refine a consensus solution. Given the complexity and uncertainty, it's vital for industry bodies like IAB Tech Lab and Google to maintain clear, unified communication and a well-structured transition process to alleviate current fears, uncertainties, and doubts (FUD).

Travis Teo, co-founder, Adzymic

Companies should adopt a cautious approach to Privacy Sandbox, refraining from significant technical investments until there's greater clarity. The fundamental changes in auction, targeting, and attribution mechanisms within the Sandbox are still evolving. A "wait and see" strategy will prevent resource wastage and allow for better alignment with final standards.

Privacy should remain front of mind. Amid other trending topics like AI, privacy remains a paramount concern. Companies that proactively build privacy-safe technology stacks will not only comply with future regulations but also gain a competitive market edge.

Travis Teo, Co-Founder, Adzymic

There are lots of people sitting on the fence.”
Hannah O'Neill

The IAB’s State of Data 2024 report showed that less than 60% across the industry are using or planning to use Privacy Sandbox this year. What does this tell us? As we’ve seen again and again, from GDPR to ATT, there are lots of people sitting on the fence. And just as we saw with those events, there will likely be panic, disruption, and catch-up required when it fully kicks in. 

Although Sandbox has been heavily criticised by some in ad tech, even if 100% cookie switch-off ends up being delayed further, all the experts seem to agree that looks like only being for a short time. We have been testing Sandbox extensively, because its promise is to help deliver the outcomes our clients want in a consumer-centric way.

Hannah O’Neill, VP Sales at Nano Interactive

“The benefits must outweigh the cost of building it.”

Investing in new privacy-preserving technologies and maintaining operational flexibility will remain crucial. It is increasingly recognised that Sandbox APIs are not a comprehensive solution. The benefits must outweigh the cost of building it, and the verdict on this is still out. There is a huge need to push alternative solutions forward faster and without waiting for the Sandbox to materialise.

Final investment decisions will likely not be made before the CMA decision. This is where ends didn’t meet in this process. There must be enough time between “approval” and “launch”. This is not a walk in the park. It takes thousands of engineering days to build the Sandbox and there are many other great things to innovate for the future of programmatic advertising.

I do hope privacy remains front of mind! Large platforms cannot be the only ones with access to consumer data and, as a result, dictate how this data is exposed for advertising purposes. Publishers and advertisers need to stay in front of the consumer and create a fair value exchange.

Jochen Schlosser, CTO, Adform

“Privacy remains a top priority, but trust in Google's stewardship is not absolute.”

The industry should use this delay to thoroughly test and understand the Sandbox's tools. But we, as an industry, should know that it doesn't matter if privacy is front of mind for us because it is definitely front of mind for legislators and more importantly, the public.  

Companies should adopt a proactive approach, exploring all the privacy-first technologies to maintain the flexibility to adopt the best solutions. Privacy remains a top priority, but trust in Google's stewardship is not absolute. Cohort-based targeting, like Topics, is a step forward for privacy, reflecting a shift towards less invasive tracking methods. However, it's crucial for the industry to continue advocating for transparency and fair practices, ensuring that these new technologies serve all stakeholders equitably. 

Søren H. Dinesen, CEO & Co-Founder, Digiseg

"Start getting ready right away."

Even though Google has recently announced that third-party cookie deprecation won’t be completed during the second half of Q4 of 2024, businesses operating in the programmatic industry must keep preparing for the privacy-first future. Despite a lot of fears and criticism aside from Google Privacy updates that will directly influence Topics API, enabling interest-based ads without the use of third-party cookies or tracking user behavior across sites, and Protected Audience API, getting ready in advance is a way to ensure a smooth transition to the cookieless environment and remain competitive. I would recommend that AdTech companies keep monitoring the news and start learning the specifics of Google Privacy Sandbox to understand all the aspects of its operations. To get a deeper dive into the technology, businesses can also join Privacy Sandbox testing, and, in my opinion, this step is a must for effective and painless preparation.

Roman Vrublivskyi, CEO, SmartHub