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Changes in Google Cookie Policy Could Help Improve Consumer Privacy

Technology Policy Brief #60 | By: Christopher Quinn | July 5, 2022

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The digital giant says it can sustain ad-supported world while also rendering cookies 'obsolete'.

Photo taken from:  Tam Nguyen / Ad Age

Policy Summary

In 2023 Google Chrome is phasing out third party cookies. What this means is the entire global browser market will no longer track users’ every move across the web. Safari,  Firefox and Brave already block third-party cookies by default to protect users’ privacy.  Google Chrome currently holds 64.9 percent of the global browsing market. 

Cookies are tiny, but crucial, identifiers that track internet users’ activities across the web. 

They help advertisers target ads and measure the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns.

The following is a list of what information cookies can hold:

  • The amount of time you spend on a website
  • The links you click while visiting the website
  • The options, preferences or settings you choose
  • Accounts you log into.
  • Recording which pages you’ve visited in the past
  • Items in shopping basket

They’ve become one of the central technologies underpinning the business model of publishing on the web.  Ever notice when you open a website, there often is a 2-3 sentence blurb that says the site uses cookies and asks you to accept. If you do accept you are given the site license to share your privacy information with advertisers

Policy Analysis

The death of third-party cookies comes at a time of widespread backlash against advertisers’ digital surveillance.  The public has become increasingly vocal about its discomfort with ad tracking.

Europe’s landmark digital privacy (Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications) otherwise known as The Cookie Law) passed initially in 2002 and added additional directives in 2011.  The directives recognize  the need for cookies to create the personalized online universe we enjoy today, but also makes it clear that cookies could be considered an invasion of privacy and that users deserve the right to be made aware of the presence of cookies and their usage. 

Certain cookies that are considered “strictly necessary for the delivery of a service requested by the user” don’t have to be declared, because they are of far higher benefit to the user than the company.

This includes cookies used to track shopping carts in e-commerce and  important logon information that the user requires. 

Apple, sensing an opportunity to market itself as the privacy-friendly tech giant, has announced software updates that will make it much harder for advertisers to track what users do in apps and mobile browsers. 

Google’s plan is to provide a set of APIs that will offer aggravated data, similar to what the third-party cookies of today offer.  


Where a dollar of digital advertising goes.

Photo taken from: Quartz

(click or tap to enlargen)

Brands will be able to use the APIs, but instead of being specific to any one person, the data will be more like a sample of similar kinds of people.

For example, if today a brand is using data to better target John Doe, a 28 year old male in Louisville, by 2023, they’ll be working from a sample set of data that can target people similar to John Doe in terms of age, gender, and geography, but not specifically John Doe himself. 

Essentially they’re planning to remove explicit tracking and rely on a more cohort-based option instead.  When it comes to marketing, the term cohort refers to specific experiences, events, or other factors shared by a group of consumers according to Google. 

Google says it will be effective, marketers and advertisers seem less convinced.

Until the changes take effect, marketers are going to have to find other ways of gathering and handling prospect data to ensure they’ve got coverage.

The internet is now at an inflection point. Industry groups representing advertisers, agencies, browsers and publishers are scrambling to come up with alternatives to the old methods of invasive personal tracking.

The decisions they make  over the next year will have widespread implications for the future of privacy on the web and how the businesses that operate on the internet carve up the spoils of the 336 billion dollar digital advertising industry.

Engagement Resources​

Click or tap on resource URL to visit links where available 

https://blog.google/products/chrome/updated-timeline-privacy-sandbox-milestones/

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