30 million users will have Google’s cookies disabled on January 4

Google revealed on Thursday that it will begin its much-awaited purging of cookies from the internet on January 4th, blocking them for 1% of Chrome users, or roughly 30 million individuals. This marks a significant milestone in Google’s Privacy Sandbox project, which seeks to replace cookies with a different type of tracking that it claims is more private.

Websites and tech companies have been tracking users online for the past 30 years primarily through the use of “third-party cookies.” Have you been seeing advertisements for the shoes you added to your cart three weeks ago online? Third-party cookies are most likely in play here. These cookies enable websites to work together with numerous other businesses, such as Google, to monitor everything you do online. This is great for businesses, but it’s bad for your privacy because it allows a lot of companies to have access to your entire web browsing history.

Google has replaced cookies with a new suite of tools that allow the Chrome browser to track your online activities. In essence, your browser uses that data to categorize you into different groups, or what Google refers to as “Ad Topics.” Imagine “Young Conservative” or “Yoga Fan.” Websites can query Chrome for the categories you belong to, but they won’t be able to identify you specifically.

Without a doubt, Chrome continues to track you, but it does so differently than browsers like Firefox and Safari. However, the majority of users don’t bother switching browsers, and Google’s brand-new Chrome version is at least better for privacy as it exposes less personal information about you and your online activities.

In an April 2023 interview with Gizmodo, Victor Wong, Google’s senior director of product management for Privacy Sandbox, said as much.“We are making one of the largest changes to how the Internet works at a time when people, more than ever, are relying on the free services and content that the web offers”, “The mission of the Privacy Sandbox team writ large is to keep people’s activity private across a free and open Internet, and that supports the broader company mission, which is to make sure that information is still accessible for everyone and useful.”

The Chrome browser already has these alternatives for Privacy Sandbox cookies, but they are currently an optional tool. If you disagree with the concept, you can disable them by going into your settings.

Since Chrome is used by the great majority of internet users, these actions are significant because, once Google finishes eradicating its cookies, they will effectively be permanent.

On January 4th, if you see a popup in Chrome, you are part of the 1% test group that gets “Tracking Protection” by default—Google’s term for the cookie-blocking tool. In the URL bar, there will be a small eyeball logo if tracking protection is enabled.

There will be some bugs because this is a significant alteration to the way the internet functions. Cookies are used for more than just spying; they also store information about your cart contents, login status, and other useful features. While Google is making efforts to identify and remove malicious cookies while protecting the legitimate ones, early failures are inevitable. If you experience any problems, you can instantly disable Tracking Protection. If Chrome detects that you are experiencing problems, it will also prompt you to disable Tracking Protection for that specific website.