For several weeks, a strange eye-shaped icon has appeared in the address bar of Chrome, Google’s browser. And although discreet, it gives you very important information about your browsing.
You may not have noticed it yet, even if you are a regular Chrome user. However, for several weeks, a new icon has discreetly appeared in the interface of Google’s Internet browser. More precisely, in the address bar, on the right, near the favorite star. An icon in the shape of an eye, which is not displayed all the time, not on all web pages, and not for everyone, but which will gradually become more widespread. A mysterious icon, which could even seem disturbing to some.
His role ? Just leave the cursor on it without clicking to start seeing it. The small bubble that appears says Tracking Protection. In other words, against tracking on the Internet.
Indeed, as you probably know, most of the websites you visit leave cookies on your computer or mobile device. These are small files containing text with identifying information to recognize you the next time you visit. But alongside these “legitimate” cookies, also called first-party cookies, there are third-party cookies, which are created by other sites – therefore “third-party” sites – which also contain information concerning you. Often created by advertising agencies, they are used to analyze your behavior during your browsing and therefore to follow you on the Internet to know your tastes and habits.
However, to put an end to this permanent tracking from site to site, Google decided some time ago to put an end to these famous third-party cookies, while encouraging sites and agencies to use other advertising targeting methods, more respectful of the confidentiality of Internet users. And to accelerate this important change, Chrome will gradually block these tracking cookies.
And that’s where the eye in the address bar comes in. It is there to tell you which third-party cookies are blocked or not on the site you are visiting. In practice, if the eye icon is crossed out, this means that Chrome blocks third-party cookies on the displayed page. In other words, you are not tracked on this site by cookies from another site. On the other hand, if the eye icon is not crossed out, Chrome does not block third-party cookies on the displayed page and you may therefore be tracked by cookies from other sites.
This change in Google policy is gradual. Since the beginning of 2024, blocking third-party cookies has been enabled for a small number of Chrome users (1%, which still represents millions of users worldwide). It is mainly a question of testing the effectiveness of the function. It should be generalized for everyone during the second half of 2024. According to Google, this large-scale testing phase “will help developers conduct real-world experiments to assess the readiness and effectiveness of their products without third-party cookies“.
Disabling third-party cookies is already integrated into the latest version of Chrome, but not activated for everyone. If you want to try the experiment and implement it, it is possible. Open Chrome then enter chrome://flags in the address field and validate. Look for the option Test Third Party Cookie Phaseout and click on the associated button to move it into position Enabled. After restarting Chrome, the new eye icon will appear in the address field. And since it is possible that the display of pages is disrupted by blocking third-party cookies, you can fortunately deactivate the function. Click the eye and then turn off the Third-party cookies switch.
Finally, note that it is quite amusing to see Google advocating the end of tracking cookies, when we know that the majority of its revenues come from advertising. In addition, third-party cookies or not, Google will continue to track you and collect the data it is interested in, with your consent of course: it is not by chance that some people call Chrome “more great spyware in the world”…