In June 2020, Google announced that it would stop the use of third-party cookies in Chrome. Joining a long list of web browsers, including Safari and Firefox, no longer supporting this data tracking by 2022. They first made this announcement in a blog post stating: ‘Users are demanding greater privacy –including transparency, choice, and control over how their data is used–and it’s clear the web ecosystem needs to evolve to meet these increasing demands.
However, the end of third-party cookies doesn’t necessarily mean the end of user tracking and the need to process personal data securely. In this blog post, we’re going to be breaking down everything you need to know about third-party cookies, user consent / GDPR, and alternatives to user tracking.
Why use third-party cookies?
Third-party cookies are tracking codes placed on a website by someone other than the owner and collects user data for the third party. For example, if a website had a ‘like’ function, this could be accessed by Instagram to identify cross-platform users and which websites they have visited. This data also includes website visitor behaviours, such as frequently visited websites, recent purchases, and websites of interest. These can tailor specific adverts for each user, increasing brand awareness, product ROI and overall revenue.
What are the drawbacks of using third-party cookies?
- Data privacy. In recent years, users have been given the option to allow cookies, with many website visitors disabling these data policies. So they aren’t tracked for advertising and stop their privacy from being invaded. One of the many reasons why the GDPR legislation was introduced. Meaning many advertisers wouldn’t be able to track users and increase business awareness and/or revenue.
- Data protection. Many users reject third-party cookies because they are unsure where their data is being stored and who has access to it. Therefore, they don’t want to allow cookies on websites where their personal information would be jeopardized. Basing their decisions on large scale data breaches, such as the Cambridge Analytical scandal; where personal data was taken without consent for use in political advertising.
What about first-party cookies?
Whilst third-party cookies are being phased out; first-party cookies are not. First party cookies are tracking code that allows the website owner to collect analytical user data and provide an effective user experience. For example, an e-commerce website remembers sign-in details (with the user’s consent), so they can automatically sign in to their account and make purchases.
This means that overall both user experience and website functionality will not be affected by this data decision. As websites will still be able to remember visitor language settings, provide generalised analytical data and remember unique user information. With the information only seen by the website, as they would be the designated website host and prevent third parties from reading this data.
What are some alternatives to third-party cookies?
Third-party cookies have been most popular with advertisers. They are tracking user interests, recent purchases, and common behaviours for ad targeting. With 80% of marketers in the US relying on these policies to promote their marketing message, increasing the likelihood that the user will benefit from the product and/or service and purchase through behavioural content.
However, organisations need to implement some alternative solutions to combat this with the end in sight for third-party cookies. Here are some popular alternatives:
Online accounts. When a customer sets up an online account with you, it normally includes their name, address, phone number, email address, and interests. This allows website owners to access localised user data, promote related offers, and increase email subscription sign-ups; within a CRM system or database set.
- Unique Identifiers. These refer to numbers and letters used to identify a record, e.g a phone number. Most importantly, it keeps all user data encrypted, securely keeping user information without breaching privacy protection. The information is obtained with the user’s consent; after they have signed up to business resources. This effectively makes visitor data anonymous and can be analysed to better tailor user experiences for each visitor. Although, this is very similar to browser fingerprinting without the use of third-party cookies and website data identified for each user.
- Google’s Privacy Sandbox. In conjunction with the termination of third party cookies, Google launched their Privacy Sandbox to move towards a cookieless future for both users and advertisers. This system uses 5 APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to replace third-party cookies, which allows two applications to talk to each other, e.g, sending a message on Facebook. Meaning that user data is anonymised and aggregated when making data-driven advertising decisions.
With the termination of third-party cookies imminent, it’s vital to check your website is optimised for the cookieless future, implement alternative solutions, and is constantly GDPR compliant. But if you don’t know where to start, do not fret!
Our expert team can audit your website, flag any technical issues, optimise customer data management, and advance user analytics. Ensuring you can constantly grow your audience base, securely store user data and increase your digital advertising efforts from 2022 onwards.