And that's causing fresh consternation among privacy advocates, as well as leaders in the
Cookies are those little bits of code that track your Web preferences, in part so advertisers can show you messages based on your supposed interests. They've long been a central part of the grand bargain in which consumers enjoy all kinds of free services -- from Web-based email and YouTube videos to
"The industry thrives on the ability to define and identify audiences and target those audiences with specific advertising," said
But over the years, cookies have come under fire from privacy advocates who say their tracking is too intrusive. At the same time, advertisers say they've become increasingly less effective, in part because more consumers are using smartphones and other mobile devices that don't support cookie files.
"Whether any of us likes it or not, cookies are going to disappear entirely or diminish to the point where they are not particularly useful," said
Privacy experts warn that any new system that replaces cookies will likely let Internet businesses learn even more about individuals, especially if it tracks their habits across multiple gadgets that people use throughout the day.
Some advertising companies, meanwhile, fear a tech giant like
"We believe that technological enhancements can improve users' security while ensuring the Web remains economically viable,"
The cookies in wide use today are small files that a browser such as
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