Google is known for trying hurt competition to improve your market share. For example, Microsoft claims that it had to abandon the old EdgeHTML-based Edge because they could not keep up with all the changes that Google introduced in the code of websites like YouTube, which were being added to Chromium, but it prevented its competitors from being up to date. Another example we have with the AV1 codec, where they tried to register some modifications to make it their own, but finally they did not succeed.
The TAG stops Google’s latest proposal
Now, Google wanted to change the way in which browsers determined if a cookie or other resource comes from the same website that the user has navigated to or if it comes from another site. This system, called First Party Sets (FPS), proposed that, if several domains belonged to the same company, such as Google.com and Youtube.com, these could be grouped in the same «set» at the time of advertising to the browser.
After having spent more than two years analyzing the proposal, the TAG has decided deny it because this change could be detrimental to both users and other browsers. For users, sharing the same group with other domains could imply that, if for example we give Google permission to access our microphone, YouTube would also have it. Google defended itself by saying that they would not, but the TAG demanded that the proposal should be more detailed about what the effect on privacy policies would be.
Second, there is the fact that each web browser would have to have its own list of webs that would share permissions, which would require developing different apps for each browser. The system would also add more layers of complexity to the web, something they both complained about. Apple What Mozilla.
From Apple, Maciej Stachowiak, asked about how it would be possible to prevent domains that are not controlled by the same company claiming to be related to each other. An ad company might have its top publishers join a group to regain some traceability.
Google was already testing FPS and a derived function
For all this, the TAG has determined that the First Party Sets proposal can be harmful to the web and that weakens the very concept of origin, a key pillar in the structure of the webs. In addition, they add that this would benefit the “big companies that control the implementation and services”, where they do not mention Google directly, but they drop that they are the ones who would benefit.
The First Party Sets feature is currently in tests on Chrome 89 for developers, but it will not reach the stable version. The TAG also alerts about the inclusion of new functions that depend on it, such as SameParty Cookies, which has also been included in tests in Chrome 89, and which would reduce the amount of cookies that users have to accept when entering the same company’s websites for the first time.