After years of work, Google is finally getting rid of third-party tracking cookies with the launch of Chrome 115.
The company isn’t getting rid of tracking cookies all at once as it plans to do so gradually. However, in their place, Google will instead install the Topics API (Application Programming Interface) onto Chrome, which will still collect user data and sell that information to advertisers but is said to be a lot less invasive.
Beginning on the week of July 24, the changes will roll out to 35 percent of all users with the Chrome 115 update. The goal is to eventually reach 99 percent of users by the end of August alongside the stable release of Chrome 116. In the meantime, Google will be keeping a close eye on things to ensure the rollout goes smoothly. The timeline of events may be altered along the way if any hiccups pop up, according to a post on the Chrome Developers blog.
You don’t have to sign up for anything to get rid of the trackers as Google roll out the changes to Chrome automatically. All you have to do is install the latest patch by going to the browser’s Settings menu then going to About Chrome in the left-hand menu.
More of the same?
Back in 2019, Google kicked off its Privacy Sandbox project to clean house by getting rid of tracking cookies. The company has been heavily criticized in the past for enabling such practices so it initiated Privacy Sandbox in an attempt to clean house.
However, getting rid of the trackers has proven to be rather difficult as the company attempts to walks a fine line between protecting user data and keeping advertisers happy. Its first attempt was FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts), a move that was "widely panned by privacy advocates” as it didn’t really solve the problem.
The Topics API is meant to be the solution, or at least a part of it. Google has said in the past it will get rid of third-party cookies altogether in 2024. Whether or not the Topics API is included in that classification remains to be seen. The API can be seen as a compromise between companies who still want people’s data and privacy advocates who want to protect said data.
This vagueness has drawn its own set of criticism. Mozilla engineer Martin Thomsan spoke for the Firefox developer, stating the Topic API “is more likely to reduce the usefulness of the information for advertisers than it provides meaningful protection”.
There is more to Chrome 115 besides the tracker changes as Google is introducing some experimental features like a new built-in Reading Mode to reformat online articles for easier reading. More notably you have Memory Saver to cut down on the amount of resources the browser uses. And if you’re on a Windows 11 computer, Chrome now supports the Mica effect which makes tabs translucent when not in use.
Android Police states you can activate these features by entering chrome://flags into the address bar. You can use the search bar at the top to look for the correct flags. Be aware, since these features are experimental, they may not work properly.
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Cesar Cadenas has been writing about the tech industry for several years now specializing in consumer electronics, entertainment devices, Windows, and the gaming industry. But he’s also passionate about smartphones, GPUs, and cybersecurity.