January 19, 2024
What to Know about the Google Cookie Deprecation
The internet is buzzing with discussions about cookies, those tiny pieces of data that websites store on our devices to track our online activities. We wanted to share a look into the role of cookies, addressing the growing privacy concerns, the move away from third-party cookies, and what a future without cookies means for users, advertisers, and the overall web landscape.
As the digital community grapples with these changes, understanding the nuances of cookie deprecation becomes crucial. This conversation is not just about privacy and marketing; it’s about shaping a more transparent, user-centric online world.
What is a Cookie?
‘Cookies’ are small pieces of data that websites use to gather information about a device or its user. There are two main types:
- 1st Party Cookies, which are set by the website you’re visiting, and
- 3rd Party Cookies, which are set by a different website or network, often for advertising purposes.
These tiny data files serve various functions, ranging from remembering your login details and preferences to keeping track of items in your shopping cart. However, their role extends beyond convenience; they are a crucial component in the digital advertising landscape, helping to tailor and deliver relevant ads based on user behavior.
Adjusting to Changes in Online Privacy
Online privacy is changing because both governments and internet users want more clarity and safety regarding their data. This change has led to important new laws, such as the GDPR in Europe and the CCPA in California, along with similar rules in Virginia, Colorado, Utah, and Connecticut, creating stronger protection for personal data and privacy.
However, despite these steps forward, there still isn’t a complete privacy law that covers the whole United States. The lack of a single federal privacy law means that rules can differ from state to state, making things complicated for both businesses and people.
A study from the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) suggests that when privacy laws vary widely, businesses might choose to follow the strictest rules everywhere to stay compliant. This could lead to an unofficial national standard. The situation underlines how crucial it is to be well-informed and flexible to manage the complex world of privacy laws successfully.
In January 2020, following the lead of competitor browsers like Safari & Firefox, Google Chrome announced that it too would be shutting off support for 3rd Party Cookies.
The phase-out started in January 2024, initially impacting 1% of users, and aims to extend to everyone by the end of the year. This is a big deal because 75% of marketers heavily rely on these 3rd Party Cookies, and nearly half allocate about 50% of their budgets to campaigns that utilize them.
A Cookie-less Future
In their attempt to soften the blow from cookie restrictions, Google launched the Privacy Sandbox Initiative.
This initiative brings tools like the Topics API, which identifies user interests from their browsing history to improve ad targeting. Additionally, the Protected Audience API allows ad auctions to happen directly on the user’s device, selecting appropriate ads based on the websites the user has visited.
TLDR: Your data is now housed solely on your device and not throughout the internet, as in the past with cookies.
The decision by a browser— that dominates 65% of the market—to phase out 3rd Party Cookies is a game-changer for user privacy and has widespread effects on online advertising and the internet as a whole.
In this new era without cookies, first-party data becomes crucial for advertisers. Programmatic advertising will need to adapt to a model that relies more on probabilities, as sharing information across sites will no longer be possible. However, social media platforms might not feel much impact because they have their own data to understand users and tailor ads.
From a positive viewpoint, Google’s move is in line with the increasing calls for better privacy. It encourages the creation of new technologies that put privacy first and prompts the industry to seek innovative, secure ways of advertising.
On the flip side, critics argue that Google is using its massive influence to further cement its dominant position in the online advertising world (considering Google’s $300 billion revenue in 2023).
The shift away from third-party cookies signals a new chapter in digital privacy and advertising. It’s pushing the boundaries of how user privacy is respected and how data is used, urging advertisers and tech firms to adapt in this changed landscape. As the digital world keeps evolving, the balance between privacy rights and business interests is more relevant than ever.