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Google isn’t taking its plight lightly to build a “more private” web by improving users’ data protection in digital advertising. Earlier this year, the tech giant made an announcement that they intended to make third party cookies obsolete in Chrome, following in the footsteps of Firefox and Safari. Chrome is going to undertake this change through a phased approach, so don’t start panicking!
Cookies are generally created by a network server to help serve their users with a convenient online experience by personalizing (and tracking) their web sessions. Specifically, third party cookies are tracked by websites other than the website a user is visiting.
Have you ever wondered why recurring ads keep following you on your social media account/s? That’s a by-product of third party cookies from websites you previously visited. These cookies are heavily used for ad retargeting and behavioral advertising. In essence, when you’re accepting third party cookies, you’re giving websites the ability to collect information about your online habits.
As frustrating as third party cookies may seem from a user’s point of view — especially with personal data and information on the line — these cookies actually allow personalization in overall online experiences on web pages, ads, and content that they consume.
Users are used to personalized online experiences that are driven by their behavior (such as ad personalization initiatives from marketers). In fact, some of us (me) actually enjoy the convenience that cookies provide.
With these impending changes, imagining a cookie-less browsing future is as challenging for users as much as it is for advertisers. The online experience, which they have grown accustomed to, will change drastically.
If advertisers are no longer able to target specific people due to the absence of third party cookies, everyone is at risk of being presented with irrelevant ads frequently — all because there’s no longer a cross-site view of who the user is and what that user has seen.
From an advertiser’s point of view, with the absence of third party cookies it seems likely that the biggest spenders, who consider everyone as their target audience, will be able to dominate compared to those who have specific target audiences and smaller budgets. This is because conversion ratios within targeted ads are high, driven by users showing a greater deal of interest.
Regardless of whether or not the removal of third-party cookies is beneficial for users, it poses challenges to brands, agencies, tech vendors, advertisers, and publishers alike.
With this big of a threat in place, a broad coalition of affected parties came together to form Partnership for Responsible Addressable Media to establish standards for advertising to target and define audiences and addressing users’ concerns for privacy.
Ad tracking and transparency on the web will also radically evolve. In fact, Google is currently on the works to include more information in its “Why this ad?” transparency listings feature and to launch a new Chrome extension called Ads Transparency Spotlight in preparation for the big move. The feature will provide the verified names of advertisers to which an ad came about, while the tool will provide more context about the ads.
Google is in the hopes of initiating a new set of technical solutions for cookies that are less annoying and invasive. In the first place, cookies were never really meant to function as they currently do — containing and sharing as much user information.
So what’s to come after the cookies disappear? We’re prepared to wait and see.