Last Updated on July 13, 2021
Ubiquitous Cookies & Behavior Tracking
The move is believed to be driven by a backlash against tech companies regarding privacy concerns in the U.S. and Europe for tracking individuals on the web and leveraging that information for advertising and marketing purposes.
Update 6/28/23: Due to the upheaval these changes are going to cause Google has announced that they will be supporting third-party cookies until late 2023. Google will use this extension to test their Privacy Sandbox tools, that they hope will better balance user privacy against advertisers’ needs.
Balancing Personal Privacy & Data Collection
According to the Pew Research Center, 72 percent of web users believe almost all their online activity is being tracked by advertisers, tech firms, or other companies. Eighty-one percent believe the potential risks they face because of data collection outweigh the benefits.
Google said it would “not be building alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will we use them in our products,” wrote David Temkin, director of product management, Ads Privacy, and Trust for Google, on a company blog.
The Distinction Between First- & Third-Party Cookies
There is an important distinction between first and third-party cookies.
A first-party cookie is code generated and stored on a website visitor’s computer by default when a person visits their site. The cookie is often used to enhance the user experience, recording passwords, basic data about the visitor, and other user preferences.
Third-party cookies are set by a site other than the one being visited. They use targeting pixels or similar techniques to track users. Tracking produces information about online consumer behavior and allows marketers and advertisers to track website traffic and direct ads to users based on their profile.
So far, Google says the phase-out applies only to third-party cookies on its browsers. First-party cookies that track basic data about website visitors will remain unchanged.
In his March blog entry, Temkin underscored Google’s support for first-party relationships.
“Developing strong relationships with customers has always been critical for brands to build a successful business, and this becomes even more vital in a privacy-first world. We will continue to support first-party relationships on our ad platforms for partners, in which they have direct connections with their customers,” he wrote.
How Marketers Will Respond
Trade groups such as the Association of National Advertisers, the American Association of Advertising Agencies, and other publishers have protested the move. Both groups called out Google for disrupting healthy competition in the advertising space.
“Google’s decision to block third-party cookies in Chrome could have major competitive impacts for digital businesses, consumer services, and technological innovation,” they said in a statement. “It would threaten to substantially disrupt much of the infrastructure of today’s Internet without providing any viable alternative, and it may choke off the economic oxygen from advertising that startups and emerging companies need to survive.”
Both groups asked Google to push back the third-party cookie moratorium until “effective and meaningful opportunities were made available to advertisers.”
Privacy Sandbox & FLoC Solutions
Google is offering its Privacy Sandbox and Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) as solutions. FLoC relies on machine learning to study the browsing habits of groups of similar users. FloC is part of Google’s Privacy Sandbox, which will replace cookies with five application programming interfaces (APIs) to gather aggregated data in areas such as conversion and attribution.
Temkin said future Google web products “will be powered by privacy-preserving APIs which prevent individual tracking while still delivering results for advertisers and publishers.”Consider Google’s global tag site for more effective measurement – Google says adding this tag to each page of a website is a simple way to improve the accuracy of online conversion measurements and provide insights to help optimize digital… Click To Tweet
Google Joins Safari and Firefox
Google’s abandonment of third-party cookies joins Safari and Firefox, which previously phased out third-party cookies. Google’s Chrome, however, is the market share leader in browsers. It holds 65 percent of the market. Both Safari and Firefox have less than 10 percent of the market, according to Statcounter.
WordPress Users & FLoC Development
WordPress security officials are reportedly discussing whether Google’s FLoC could present a security issue for the platform. Since FLoC is still in testing form, WordPress security officials say they are continuing to monitor FloC’s development.
Worried About Your Website’s Tracking?
Our FREE 30-minute consult can help identify:
- If you’re tracking the thing you need to measure success
- How to get the best out of your Google Analytics and Google Search Console
- How to future-proof your website
“Spectrum Group Online started the engagement by performing an extensive audit of our website. They looked at our site’s frontend to evaluate the clarity of its UX. Then, they analyzed the backend’s ability to support SEO and SEM. By applying their knowledge of Google Analytics, they found a lot of areas in the site that could be improved to help us stand out within an online marketplace”.Marketing Manager, Garratt Callahan
What does this mean for the future?
- Build direct relationships with customers – Google thinks companies should rely less on third parties to get closer to their customers.
- Keep data connected and clean – Companies need to ensure that first-party data is cleaned up, well maintained, and connected within internal systems. This will help avoid any operational hiccups as third-party data is phased out.
- Consider Google’s global tag site for more effective measurement – Google says adding this tag to each page of a website is a simple way to improve the accuracy of online conversion measurements and provide insights to help optimize digital marketing campaigns.
- Think of the long term – More than 70 percent of organizations that invested in privacy protections for their customers reported increased loyalty, reduced sales delays, and more efficient operations, according to a survey conducted by Cisco.
The ability to track customers is a linchpin in digital marketing and will continue to be so in the foreseeable future. Companies will adapt to this shift from Google by adopting new methods and practices and tapping into new resources from Google, and its competitors. What will not change is the interest of advertisers and marketers to know what people are looking at when they browse the web and what products will move the needle.