Google begins disabling browser cookies: What you need to know

Google Chrome, the world's most popular web browser, will disable third-party cookies for 1% of its users on Jan. 4, 2024 (Photo by Gokhan Balci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Google has begun phasing out third-party cookies that can track users across the Internet: The internet giant on Thursday disabled third-party cookies for 1% of Google Chrome users, or about 30 million people.

The new feature is called Tracking Protection, and it’s one part of Google’s bigger plans – known as Privacy Sandbox – to phase out third-party cookies for all users later in 2024, Anthony Chavez, VP of Google’s Privacy Sandbox, said in a blog post.

Google announced in 2021 that it would phase out third-party cookies, but it has postponed the phaseout several times since. Rival browsers Safari and Mozilla Firefox removed third-party cookies by default years ago.

What are third-party cookies?

Third-party cookies are snippets of code that log user info and are used by advertisers to more effectively target their campaigns, thereby helping fund free online content such as newspapers and blogs.


Google Chrome, the world's most popular web browser, will disable third-party cookies for 1% of its users on Jan. 4, 2024 (Photo illustration by Chesnot/Getty Images)

However, they’ve also been a longstanding source of privacy concerns because they can be employed to track users across the internet.

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Why are advertisers concerned?

Google’s plans to remove cookies have raised fears that replacement technology will leave even less room for online ad rivals.

The U.K. competition watchdog has been investigating Google’s proposals to remove them since 2021 amid concerns they would undermine digital ad competition and entrench the company’s market power.

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Google has offered U.K. regulators a role overseeing its phasing out of ad-tracking technology from its Chrome browser. 

How will you know if Google removed cookies from your browser?

The 30 million users in Google’s Tracking Protection pilot are selected randomly. Google says if you’re chosen, you’ll get notified when you open Chrome on either desktop or Android.

"And that’s it! As you browse the web, third-party cookies will be restricted by default, limiting the ability to track you across different websites," Chavez said in the blog post.


Cookies settings on an internet browser (Photo by Mohssen Assanimoghaddam/picture alliance via Getty Images)

If a site you visit doesn’t work without third-party cookies and Chrome notices you’re having issues, the browser will ask if you want to temporarily re-enable third-party cookies on the website giving you issues.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.