Google recently announced that third party cookies will be phased out on its flagship browser, Chrome, by the end of 2022. This garnered a wide range of responses across the web, from joy to panic. Exactly why Google is making this big step is fairly straight
So, what exactly IS a third-party cookie? Essentially, they are small, traceable files which websites share with you whilst interacting with them. As you browse the internet, these small files leave breadcrumbs of data for other websites to read and use to personalise their advertising and experience to cater to your needs and desires.
For example, if you spend some time searching for a specific pair of shoes, each website you visit will note down your search preferences and mark you with that information. When you visit websites in the future, they will see that you have been looking for a certain style of shoe and show you similar adverts. In this example, third party cookies are a polite helper to connect the user to their intended product or service with ease. However, in more malicious cases, third party cookies can be used to utilise a user’s data to produce tailored content designed to manipulate and convince without their knowledge.
Safari and Internet Explorer have already discontinued third party cookies. As Chrome is the most popular browser, with a majority share of 62% of online users in 2022, this will be the biggest step to remove cookies from the user experience to date.
For this reason, it sems a no brainer why Chrome is moving to discontinue the trackers. First party cookies, the ones that remember your account login details, what’s in your shopping trolley and what posts you’ve liked will be staying around as they are essential for user experience. The decision by Chrome is to aid the data protection of its users and limit how much personal information can be shared with external companies.
However, for digital marketers, this presents an interesting bend in the road. How can we help our clients reach out to specific demographics and find new audiences if the tools to separate them from the crowd disappear?
Thankfully, a path forward is being paved by Google. To replace the service provided by third party cookies, Google is developing its ‘Google Privacy Sandbox’. This offers an ‘opt in’ option for websites to host a protected ‘cookie jar’ on their database for first party cookies and other small bites of data which give the users their personality.
This ‘cookie jar’ can be accessed through a read only view by external websites to find users with specific interests. The data remains on the initial website which the user trusts. The system is still being built by Google and further updates as to how this will work are yet to be announced.
Should this be the way forward, it would present a few extra steps to digital marketing when trying to locate key demographics, but it would be done in the confidence that the data is reliable and collected through safer, more moral standards.
The questions that remain are not only how far the internet is willing to go with its cookie analogy (Google’s Privacy Sandbox’s mission statement being “cookies having independent partitioned states”, or… CHIPS…), but whether the majority of online users will welcome the changes. Although data protection is of great importance to global security, might some people rather have personalised adverts which echo their online habits?