Google’s Delay of SameSite Cookie Changes Is Not Enough: It Must Delay Third-Party Cookie Phase Out

Google finally acknowledged Friday its unilateral changes to the online marketplace are disruptive. Google announced it was suspending enforcement of a change it demanded of websites on labeling first- and third-party cookies. Its rationale: “to ensure stability for websites providing essential services.” 

This comes as no surprise to news publishers nationwide. The journalism industry has been painfully aware of the incredible power of Google to disrupt entire businesses through unilateral changes to its platforms. With more and more activity shifting online because of coronavirus distancing requirements–like banking, grocery stores, and healthcare–these industries are learning that same lesson.

Journalism is viewed as an essential service. It faces a massive unmanageable threat from Google’s stated intention to eliminate third-party cookies in its Chrome browser. Google’s own study found that doing this would reduce ad revenue for news publishers by an average of 62% and hit small and local outlets particularly hard. We agree with the World Wide Web consortium that Google should delay the implementation of the third-party cookie phase out. 

The following is a statement from Laura Bassett, former Senior Politics Reporter for HuffPost who was laid off in January and co-founder of the Save Journalism Project:

“While journalists and news outlets have already suffered tremendously from Google’s stranglehold on the digital ad market, it took a pandemic for Google to acknowledge its unilateral changes are burdensome to the functioning of the online marketplace. 

We have been raising the alarm for months about Google’s initial decision to phase out third-party cookies. Google’s own study found that phasing out would reduce ad revenue for news publishers by an average of 62% with a disproportionate impact on small and local outlets. Now we are urging them to do their part in this crisis, and halt the phase-out. With ad revenue already collapsing because of the pandemic, the industry simply can’t afford a man-made disruption right now.

Google and the other tech giants had already decimated the business model of the journalism industry before the coronavirus pandemic. And now the societal and economic disruptions are pushing the journalism industry to the edge of collapse. We can’t risk the demise of an industry whose practitioners continue to risk their safety and lives to provide accurate information and up to date coverage during the crisis. With a loss of news and information comes a loss of democracy; and dare we say, the possibility of a loss of life. Now, more than ever, we can’t afford that.”