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Microsoft Edge will soon introduce a new API that focuses on protecting user privacy in ads.

The browser ecosystem has been moving towards evolving the platform to reduce cross-site tracking of users. To address this, Microsoft Edge has implemented built-in Tracking Prevention and other security features that protect users from third-party tracking cookies and malicious content. To strengthen this commitment further, Microsoft has announced the Ad Selection API. This browser platform feature enables advertisers and publishers to show relevant ads to users without relying on third-party cookies or other cross-site tracking identifiers. 

Third-party cookies, which have been used for various scenarios like federated logins and subsidized-by-advertising content, can make it difficult for users to know how their data is being used and where it is being shared. Therefore, almost universally, browsers are moving towards deprecating third-party cookies. To enable the ecosystem to make this transition successfully, it's crucial to build the right tools to allow to implement and deploy -preserving approaches where possible.

The Ad Selection API includes robust protections, such as K-anonymity constraints and differential . It protects user data throughout the ad auction process. It enables relevant ads to be shown to users while keeping them in complete control of their data. The API leverages Trusted Execution Environments (TEEs), allowing computationally heavy tasks to be processed off-device while ensuring that no one can directly observe the data being processed. 

Microsoft is committed to listening to feedback and collaborating with the web standards community and the web advertising industry to make further improvements. Interested parties are encouraged to engage with Microsoft through the project available at WICG/-preserving-ads.

Does this mean Microsoft Edge is deprecating third-party cookies?

The future of the web is clear – third-party cookies are on their way out. To ensure that the shift away from these cookies is done responsibly and to measure its impact, the industry is testing the Ad Selection API and providing feedback early. In line with this, Microsoft Edge will soon begin experimenting with deprecating third-party cookies. Initially, this experiment will target less than 1% of non-managed device users and will continue throughout 2024. By doing this, Microsoft Edge can evaluate and measure the various impacts on customers and partners. It will also encourage the ecosystem to prepare proactively for the eventual removal of third-party cookies. 

It is important to note that commercial customers who use Microsoft Edge on managed devices will not be affected by these experiments. More details regarding managed devices will be shared at a later date. However, we strongly encourage commercial customers to start testing their public and internal sites to ensure they and their partner ISVs have enough time to update their sites.

A timeline for a broader rollout will be shared at a future date, and ecosystem readiness will be measured continually throughout the process.

Proactively testing

If you're interested in the Ad Selection API, we'll share more details as implementation progresses. We're inviting the industry to test and adopt it in the latter half of 2024. Please note that this timeline may change as we learn more about how the changes impact customers and partners and receive feedback from the industry.

Shortly, Microsoft Edge will block third-party cookies by default. It's important to note that the changes planned for third-party cookie deprecation will function differently than turning off third-party cookies via the Edge Settings (edge://settings/content/cookies), which currently turns off all third-party storage entirely. After the change, the browser will still permit explicitly partitioned cookies and automatically partition other storage. It's worth noting that partitioned storage is kept from websites. 

We recommend that all web test their site with this change to how third-party cookies function. Proactive testing will enable you to identify user experience impacts within your site and update it on a timeline that you are more in control of. You can test third-party cookie deprecation in Microsoft Edge right now by following these steps:

1. Go to edge://flags/#test-third-party-cookie-phaseout in a new tab.

2. Enable the Test Third Party Cookie Phaseout flag.

3. Restart Microsoft Edge. 

I hope this helps! Let me know if you have any further questions.

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