Survival guide for the 3rd party cookie apocalypse

It’s quite a bit of a clickbait to say that Google killed the cookie. What’s more apt would be that Google made a landmark move against bad cookies – in favour of user privacy. The truth is, the crackdown is focused solely on 3rd party cookies, which according to us (and we’re sure for several responsible internet agencies) bodes well for consumers and makes the internet a much safer place.

Google and cookies

To fully understand the move it’s important to realize just what a 3rd party cookie is, and who uses it. A 3rd party cookie is one that’s created by domains other than the one visited by the user at that time, and are usually used for tracking and ad serving purposes. Which of course makes such cookies a favourite for organizations building huge databases of users – where they go & what they do on the internet. Tracking and harvesting activities of users to build rich user profiles – which are very valuable for advertising & retargeting. Beginning to see how this could also be dangerous, right? (if not, we recommend some Netflix and spine-chilling. Watch ‘The Great Hack’.)

This tracking occurs when your web browser loads an advertisement or accesses a web server and generates a cookie. Then, even after you end the session and access any other page showing an ad using this server, that little cookie sneakily continues to track your path & behaviour across domains. A bit creepy yes, but for long this represented a huge source of user behavioural data.

So what makes this move such a truly watershed moment? Consider this: Chrome is today the most-used browser, owned of course, by Google whose Google Ads is by far the largest advertising player in the world. The sheer immensity of the decision is sure to have correlating ramifications, that will affect organizations and users alike in the years to come.

But. But. But. We’re here to tell you advertisers and marketers that… It’s really not that big a problem. RELAX.

Your Google Analytics and/or Facebook Pixel will continue to work as both JavaScript trackers have been using first-party cookies since 2017 and 2018 respectively. Which means these law-abiding JS trackers will ask for your consent and only then use first-party cookies. While the big bad DMPs who’ve been harvesting humanity collecting and profiling your browsing history & data without consent will have a much harder time.

However, it’s only a matter of time before first-party cookies too face the same kind of crackdown, and become severely limited, if not blocked altogether. Already most browsers have enacted some sort of restriction – like Apple releasing the Intelligent Tracking Prevention feature for Safari – so that first-party cookies set by JavaScript expire in only a few days. One solution would be to set a 2-year expiration date of cookies like in the days before (read: circa 2007), via a script from the main domain of your website (not loaded from a 3rd party server), or set by a HTTP protocol instead of JavaScript.

Which is exactly what Meiro does. We deploy complete tracking solutions – not just JavaScript trackers, but also back-end solutions for each client. Of course, there’s no way we could create such complete, rich (or dangerous/creepy) profiles like DMPs. But we can reliably measure behaviour of users on our clients’ websites, so seamlessly that it seems a part of the website itself.

This is the only way forward for advertisers, after the ‘death’ of third-party cookies and the inevitable demise of first-party cookies too. Not to track and store ‘Everything I can know about everyone across the internet’, because the danger is that such comprehensive data could be misused (or stolen), and well also… stalker alert. But instead, to collect only the data you absolutely need – about your own customers and visitors to your website, or limited to your website/mobile app, etc.

To conclude, we welcome the change. It’s not a death knell for advertisers but instead a welcome chime, ushering a new internet – one that’s safer and more privacy abiding. One that asks customers to happily and willingly share – instead of slyly stealing from them.

Vojtech Kurka

CTO | Co-founder As nerdy as they come, V holds the R&D fort in Brno. He is about all things data engineering, analytics and data processing technology. When he is not doing that, he is usually obsessing about coffee or motorbikes.
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