You know what it’s like: you go browsing online for something that interests you – perhaps a new sweater. The next time you visit your regular news site, all the banners contain ads for the particular sweater you have been looking at. A third-party cookie has collected data about your surfing pattern.
But now, this will soon be over. Already a couple of years ago, Google announced that in 2022, now moved to 2023, the third-party cookie will disappear from the Chrome browser. In Firefox and Safari, third-party cookies have already been banned since 2019 and 2017, respectively.
So what is a cookie? Well, a small text file that collects data about your online surfing.
The first-party cookie collects and sends first-party data about your surfing to the owner of the website you visit, and where it is also stored. The cookie allows the website to, for example, remember language settings and other things that improve the user experience. An example of a first-party cookie is when you log in to an e-commerce site. If first-party cookies were blocked, you would not be able to buy more than one item online – the shopping cart would be restored each time you added a new product.
The third-party cookie is used, among other things, to deliver relevant ad placements for advertisers – the sweater, that is. It is placed on a website by someone other than the site owner (a third party) and collects user data for the third party. Like with regular cookies, third-party cookies are placed so that a page, later on, can remember something about the user. However, ad networks often set third-party cookies that a website can subscribe to in order to increase sales or the number of visitors.
For example, a user visits a website called news.com. Cookies placed on this domain by news.com are first-party cookies. A cookie set by someone else, such as an advertiser or a social media site, is a third-party cookie.
Infringing on users’ privacy rights
Third-party cookies have been widely criticized for infringing on users’ privacy rights while opening up to data breaches. In 2011, the European Union also adopted the ePrivacy Directive, which required users to be informed about which cookies they would interact with when visiting a website. Together with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), EU cookie legislation is the most stringent in the world, requiring you to obtain the express consent of end-users before cookies are allowed to be activated on your website.
Focusing on first-party data
When Google stops selling web ads that target individual users’ browsing habits, advertisers who rely on cookies must find another way to reach users. The big question is, therefore, how marketers should think instead. For sure, the first-party data will be so much more valuable. Consequently, it is essential to navigate visitors to your own platform directly through intelligent, relevant and attractive content. To collect as much of your own data as possible about your visitors. Newsletters, for example, are hotter than ever.
At the same time, Google itself will continue to target ads based on the behaviour of Google’s own platforms. In other words, while the cookie death will have huge consequences for the digital advertising industry, it will probably not affect Google itself.
Google is also launching Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLOC). With FLOC, Chrome will keep track of users’ browsing habits and create different groups of users based on this. Advertisers can then target ads to a group similar to their own audience. In other words, Google will still technically deliver targeted ads, but in a more anonymous way.