Google Delays Cookie Removal to Late 2023

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Google said Thursday it would delay its plan to scrap a widely used technology to track web-browsing habits amid scrutiny from regulators and resistance from the advertising industry and privacy advocates.

Under the new timeline, the

Alphabet Inc.

GOOG 0.69%

unit said its Chrome internet browser will stop supporting a user-tracking technology called third-party cookies by late 2023, nearly two years later than its initial time frame of early 2022. Google had announced the removal of cookies, which many companies in the advertising sector use to track individuals’ and target ads, under pressure from privacy regulators and advocates.

Google said the delay will give it more time to get publishers, the ad industry and regulators comfortable with the new technologies it is developing and testing to enable targeted ads in cookies’ wake.

“While there’s considerable progress with this initiative, it’s become clear that more time is needed across the ecosystem to get this right,” Google said.

The company’s plan to remove cookies is facing an array of regulatory scrutiny and complaints from privacy advocates who said it wasn’t going far enough to protect users’ data. Competitors said the search giant was using privacy concerns as a pretext to box them out of online advertising.

Earlier this week, the European Union said it is investigating Google’s plan to remove cookies as part of a wide-ranging inquiry into allegations that Google has abused its prominent role in advertising technology.

Google’s Battle With the EU

Google has separately pledged to give the U.K.’s competition watchdog at least 60 days’ notice before removing cookies to review and potentially impose changes to its plan, as part of an offer to settle a similar investigation. That probe stemmed from complaints that Chrome’s removal of cookies will give an advantage to ads on Google’s own products, such as YouTube or Search, where Google will still be able to do individual-level targeting.

In addition to operating its own properties, Google plays a central role in the online advertising ecosystem. It owns some of the most widely used tools to broker the sale of ads across the web, and many of those ads appear via Chrome, the most extensively used web browser, with nearly 65% of the market globally, according to Statcounter.

The delay provides a reprieve for advertisers and ad agencies. Marketers are on edge over Google’s effort to retire cookies, ad executives said, and have rushed to find new ways to continue tracking and targeting their customers. Many have been working overtime to collect more first-party data about their customers through loyalty programs, newsletters, or creating direct-to-consumer businesses.

Apple and Google have one of Silicon Valley’s most famous rivalries, but behind the scenes they maintain a deal worth $8 billion to $12 billion a year according to a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit. Here’s how they came to depend on each other. Photo illustration: Jaden Urbi

Write to Patience Haggin at patience.haggin@wsj.com, Sam Schechner at sam.schechner@wsj.com and Suzanne Vranica at suzanne.vranica@wsj.com

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