Google Begins to Block Third-Party Cookies: How Tracking Protection Impacts Chrome Users

As Google Chrome starts to block third-party cookies by default, here’s how Tracking Protection impacts your online browsing experience and affects your digital privacy.
We may receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

As of January 4, 2024, Google introduced 1% of Chrome users to Tracking Protection. The new feature is designed to stop websites from communicating with each other about your online behavior via third-party cookies. The update affects your browsing experience and how advertisers interact with you and your data.

Keep reading to learn more about what Tracking Protection does, how to manage your cookies and data today, and why premium ad blockers help protect your online experience.

In this article
What are web cookies?
What does Google disabling third-party cookies mean for users?
Why did Google disable cookies?
How does Google plan to replace third-party cookies?
Safe ways to avoid or block tracking cookies
Google Chrome cookies FAQs
Bottom line: This is how the cookie crumbles

What are web cookies?

Web cookies are small text files containing unique data that identifies your browsing sessions. Any time you visit a website, it gives you a cookie that your device stores. The next time you visit the same website, it uses the cookie to remember you and load a personalized experience.

However, some web cookies, or internet cookies, go beyond creating a helpful browsing experience. Third-party cookies are used for advertising purposes and are frequently controversial. It's a cookie that tracks your behavior and can easily invade your data privacy.

Google Chrome wants to disable third-party cookies with its latest update. Keep in mind that first-party cookies and session cookies are left alone. These types of cookies are often useful and essential for browsing the internet. Let's take a further look at the different types of cookies:

Session cookies

Session cookies help websites know what pages you've visited in the past, so it doesn't have to reload information every time you visit a new page. It's extremely useful for online shopping. Session cookies can remember when you've added an item to your cart. As you continue browsing or go to check out, session cookies can remember the items you selected. Basically, session cookies allow websites to have a memory.

First-party cookies or persistent cookies

First-party cookies are from websites you visit and are used only for user engagement. It can help remember your preferences, like language settings. It's also used to collect analytics data, so websites can provide functional and informative pages.

Third-party cookies or tracking cookies

Third-party cookies track your behavior and collect information about you. It's often done without your consent since third-party cookies are hidden in places like the Facebook "Like" button on a website. The data is frequently used for sales and marketing strategies like personalized ads.

While some people may like ads personalized to their tastes (after all, maybe an ad is where you discovered your favorite hiking boots), others don't like the clandestine collection of their data.

What does Google disabling third-party cookies mean for users?

Tracking Protection’s default setting will automatically limit third-party cookies while you're using the internet. It makes it easier for you to manage your data while restricting the way advertisers get your information. Considering that 40% of internet users blindly accept cookies, it may empower you to take more control of your data.

How do disabling cookies affect user privacy?

Google Chrome's Tracking Protection feature is meant to improve user privacy by giving users more control over how websites use their data. The default setting limits third-party cookies, but users can customize their experience by allowing third-party cookies for certain sites. Essentially, allowing users to have more control over their data can enhance their online privacy.

How do disabling cookies affect advertisers?

Third-party cookies have been the key to online advertising for the past three decades. With Google Chrome’s new Tracking Protection, advertisers will have to find another way to reach new audiences online. The new strategies may involve shifting focus to first-party data or implementing Google's Privacy Sandbox (more on that later).

How to enable or disable cookies on Google Chrome

If you aren't part of the lucky 1% currently using Tracking Protection, you can still enable or disable cookies on Google Chrome. To do it manually, you need to follow these steps:

  • Open the Chrome browser and select the three vertical dots in the upper right corner to reveal a menu
  • Select Settings
  • Under Privacy and security, choose Site settings
  • Click Third-party cookies and then select one of these options:
    • Allow third-party cookies
    • Block third-party cookies in Incognito mode
    • Block third-party cookies

Note that these tips work whether you use a Windows computer, Mac, Android, or iOS device.

Some sites don't work without third-party cookies, and you can make exemptions for certain websites. Simply click on the eye icon to the right of the web address. Then enable third-party cookies for the site.

Why did Google disable cookies?

The primary drive behind disabling cookies was to meet users' desire for more privacy online. One survey found that 68% of surveyed U.S. adults are concerned about the level of data collected by businesses.[1] In response, browsers like Safari and Firefox block third-party cookies by default.

Google Chrome is following the trend of blocking third-party cookies. As Chrome meets the demand for user privacy, it's more likely that it will remain the most-used web browser. But first, Google needed to create an alternative for non-essential cookies.

What is the Privacy Sandbox initiative?

Ads aren't going anywhere. For starters, it's a significant part of Google's income. In Q3 2023, 77.8% of Google's overall revenue came from advertising.[2] Personalized ads are a crucial part of the internet money-making machine. So Google needs a way to create personalized ads without users giving up their privacy.

The Privacy Sandbox initiative is Google's answer to creating targeted ads without using third-party cookies. It uses techniques like differential privacy and k-anonymity to collect information about user behavior without identifying which users contributed to the dataset. It ensures user privacy while still providing a way to share relevant content and ads with them.

How does Google plan to replace third-party cookies?

The Privacy Sandbox initiative is crucial to Google's plan to replace third-party cookies. The goal is to protect users’ privacy while giving websites a platform to earn money. While it's still a work in progress, the Privacy Sandbox has key proposals such as:

  • Topics API: Discovers what topics are of interest to the user without cross-site sharing
  • Protected Audience API: Websites you've visited can tell Chrome that they would like to share ads with you in the future
  • CHIPS: Allows widgets (like a chatbot) and embedded services (like a map) to function without using third-party cookies and cross-site sharing

While these proposals can limit the sharing of information between websites, you will still have some data tracked. Some of these cookies and tracking features are essential for functionality.

Ultimately, you will still see ads. But third-party cookies aren't used to create them, which is a step toward enhanced user privacy.

Safe ways to avoid or block tracking cookies

Google plans on rolling out this Tracking Protection initiative to everyone by the end of 2024. But in the meantime, 99% of Google Chrome users will need to manually manage their privacy settings if they want to block non-essential cookies.

You can avoid internet tracking and keep your online activities private by staying proactive. Here are a few ways to take control of your data:

Use a private search engine

A private search engine helps you stay anonymous online. It won't collect data like your IP address, search terms, or location. It also won't install cookies, so your browsing will be more private. Some popular private search engines include:

  • DuckDuckGo
  • Startpage
  • Searx

Before you switch search engines, check out this guide on how to remove your personal info from Google.

Install a browser extension

Browser extensions are another way to safely block tracking cookies and keep your online data safe. Select extensions even offer ad blocking as part of their services. Some privacy-focused extensions you may want to consider include:

Browser extensions, also called add-ons or plugins, integrate with your browser to enhance your web browsing experience. Before you use one, be sure to employ browser extension safety best practices — like only downloading an extension from official web stores.

Invest in ad blockers

The new Google Chrome update doesn't stop ads from appearing online. Ad blockers are a useful tool for removing ads from your browsing experience. Ad-blocking software can also help block tracking cookies.

Some of the best ad blockers for Chrome include:

  • Surfshark CleanWeb 2.0: CleanWeb 2.0 allows you to block ads on unlimited devices. It blocks malicious ads and websites, trackers, pop-ups, banners, and video ads, and it even works to block YouTube ads.

Get Surfshark | Read Our Surfshark Clean Web 2.0 Review

  • NordVPN Threat Protection: NordVPN is recommended for people who want a high-speed VPN that offers loads of features. The Standard plan is the most affordable while still providing access to the secure VPN and ad blocker.

Get NordVPN | Read Our NordVPN Threat Protection Review

  • Total Adblock: This software is an easy-to-use ad blocker that blocks ads and pop-ups without interfering with your browsing experience. Total Adblock removes ads and trackers on YouTube, Facebook, and most websites.

Get Total Adblock | Read Our Total Adblock Review

Adblock Plus is a free and open-source browser extension that blocks ads. However, you need a premium subscription to block pop-up videos, survey requests, and site notifications.

Google Chrome cookies FAQs


+

Do cookies have any benefits for users?

The benefits of cookies for users include ensuring a smooth browsing experience. Cookies can help you stay logged into an account, keep track of what items you put in a shopping cart, and enable other functionality. Cookies are also responsible for sharing relevant content and ads based on your browsing history.


+

How do I know if Chrome has cookies enabled?

If you aren't currently using Tracking Protection, you can manually check if Chrome has enabled cookies. Go into the browser's settings and select Privacy and security. Select Third-party cookies to check if cookies are enabled. Opt to disable cookies if that’s your preference. You can then clear cookies on Chrome for a faster browsing experience.


+

How do I enable cookies on Google Chrome?

You can enable cookies on Google Chrome by going into your browser's settings. Select Privacy and security and click on Third-party cookies to enable it. Alternatively, you can click the eye icon on the right of the web address to enable cookies for only that website.


+

How do I set cookies in my browser?

Setting cookies on your browser will look slightly different depending on your provider. You can check out our guide on how to manage cookies on every browser to find specific instructions. Generally speaking, you must alter the browser's privacy settings to set cookies.


+

How do I unblock cookies?

Unblocking cookies is possible, though the exact step-by-step instructions vary depending on your browser. Check out our guide on how to manage cookies on every browser to discover what you need to do.

Third-party cookies are going to be out by the end of 2024, based on Google's current timeline. Eventually, only essential cookies and first-party data will remain on the browser. This is great news for privacy advocates but not so much for advertisers. Online advertisers will need to adapt by using first-party data and the Privacy Sandbox initiative to display relevant ads.

However, the new Google Chrome update doesn't block ads entirely. Ads are still the same but packaged and delivered in a more privacy-focused way. If you want to block all ads from your browsing experience, you should consider investing in premium ad blockers. Ad blocker software and extensions can block ads and other tracking cookies to protect your privacy.

Highly-Rated Ad Blocker
4.5
Editorial Rating
Learn More
On Total Adblock's website
Total Adblock
Limited Time Offer: 80% Off Today
  • Remove ads & trackers on YouTube, Facebook, and most websites
  • Hands-off ad-blocking experience
  • Easy to set up
  • Free version excludes top 15,000 websites

Author Details
Sara J. Nguyen is a freelance writer specializing in cybersecurity. She aims to help people protect their data while enjoying technology. She has written about online privacy and tech for over 5 years for several organizations. When she's not writing about the latest cybersecurity trends, you can find her on LinkedIn.

Citations

[1] Corporate data responsibility: Bridging the consumer trust gap

[2] How does Google make money?