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Ad tech stocks surge as Google delays killing third-party cookies until 2023


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A logo outside the Google Store Chelsea in New York, May 28, 2021.

Victor J. Blue | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Ad tech stocks surged Thursday after Google said it was pushing back its timeline to kill third-party tracking cookies from 2022 to 2023, giving the digital advertising industry more time to plan for more privacy-conscious targeted ads. 

Several ad tech players saw stocks shoot up Thursday following the announcement. The Trade Desk shares were up nearly 15%, Magnite shares were up 9%, PubMatic shares were up more than 12%, Criteo shares were up nearly 12% in a 52-week high and LiveRamp shares were up 9%.

Cookies are small pieces of code that websites deliver to a visitor’s browser and stick around as the person visits other sites. They can be used to track users across multiple sites to target ads and see how they perform. Google said last year it would end support for those cookies in Chrome by early 2022 once it figured out how to address the needs of users, publishers and advertisers and come up with tools to mitigate workarounds.

Google is updating that timeline.

“While there’s considerable progress with this initiative, it’s become clear that more time is needed across the ecosystem to get this right,” Vinay Goel, Director of Privacy Engineering at Chrome, wrote in a blog post. 

The company said it continues to work with the web community on more private approaches to ad measurement, delivering relevant ads and content, and fraud detection. It’s Chrome’s goal to have technologies deployed by late 2022 for developers to start adopting them.

U.K. antitrust authorities said earlier this year they are investigating whether the plan to remove third-party cookies from Chrome could hurt online ad competition. The Competition and Markets Authority said it will look into whether Google’s plans could cause advertisers to shift spend to Google’s own tools at the expense of its competitors. 

“Subject to our engagement with the United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and in line with the commitments we have offered, Chrome could then phase out third-party cookies over a three month period, starting in mid-2023 and ending in late 2023,” the post says.

Google launched its “Privacy Sandbox” initiative to find a solution that protects user privacy and lets content remain freely available on the open web. One proposal, called “Federated Learning of Cohorts,” would essentially put people into groups based on similar browsing behaviors, meaning that only “cohort IDs” and not individual user IDs would be used to target them. But it has received some pushback from privacy advocates, and some publishers have said they’re declining to test the tool, Digiday reported in April. 

Meanwhile, ad tech firms have been working together on other types of solutions. Unified ID 2.0, an initiative that some top ad-tech firms are working on together, would rely on email addresses that are hashed and encrypted from consumers who give their consent. Public company LiveRamp also has what it calls its “Authenticated Traffic Solution,” which it says involves consumers opting in to gain control of their data, and on the other side, brands and publishers being able to use that data.

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