17th January 2020
This week Google announced the company would be looking to make third-party cookies obsolete on its Chrome browser within 2 years. This announcement was not a huge surprise as back in August 2019 Google launched an initiative called Privacy Sandbox - a secure environment for personalisation that also protects user privacy.
Whilst Firefox and Safari both already block third-party cookies on their browsers, it will have wider implications for the digital media industry due to Chrome’s market share which as of December 2019 stood at 63.62%.
Potentially, blocking all third-party cookies could impact planning, profiling, retargeting, analytics and attribution, including the Google suite of advertising tools and independent technologies.
This has the potential to fundamentally shift how ad-tech vendors support the digital ecosystem. However, many platforms have been preparing for the eventual industry-wide decommissioning of third-party cookies since Apple’s ITP initiative went into effect in 2017 – so this has been coming.
At this time, mobile advertising IDs are not expected to be impacted; however, we will continue to closely monitor the plans of Google and Apple as each further progresses their privacy controls.
Google stated that other browsers have reacted to privacy concerns by (aggressively) blocking third-party cookies but it believes that this has unintended consequences that can negatively impact both users and the web ecosystem. For example, without a way to track advertising, workarounds such as the opaque practice of digital fingerprinting which can be seen as subversive and ultimately damaging to a user’s web experience may gain traction.
Google has further been quoted that by the end of this year the Google Chrome team will begin trials that allow for click-based conversion measurement without third-party cookies. “Conversions will be tracked within the browser, not a third-party cookie”, according to a Google spokesperson.
The way this works is that when an advertiser needs to track a conversion, they’ll call an API that will send the conversion value from the browser but individual user data will not be passed back.
Consumers are demanding greater privacy, transparency and choice over who is capturing their data and what they are using it for. Google may be seen as coming late to the privacy party but it has a big hand to play that could have both positive and negative impacts depending on your standpoint.
It will likely mean that advertisers will over time, need to work with their agencies to develop separate approaches to targeting and measurement between different browsers, which could become highly complex.