Marketers May Have to Do Without Cookies in the Future

April 11, 2023

Third-party cookies have been around since the World Wide Web emerged in the 1990s. A cookie, according to Technopedia, "is a text file that a Web browser stores on a user's machine." Cookies, contrary to common belief, are not malware, viruses or spyware. They are tiny text files that allow a web server to, among other things, identify the user.

The downside, and a few of the reasons that regulators mistrust cookies are:

  • Cookies can be used for collecting personal data and tracking users' behavior without their consent.
  • Online advertisers have used cookies to track users across multiple websites to build detailed profiles.
  • Cookies can generate targeted ads based on the data collected.

The European Union, for example, requires websites to ask users' permission for the use of cookies, as well as other tracking technologies. Further, cookie distributors must give a clear and comprehensive description of how the data is collected and what it will be used for. Likewise, in the U.S., the California Consumer Privacy Act requires websites to tell users what personal data they collect and allow the user to opt out of the sale of their data.

Major Players Abandoning Third-Party Cookies
Prominent players in the advertising and technology industry have announced plans to abandon third-party cookies. Some examples:

  • Google, the world leader in online advertising, will stop using third-party cookies in its Chrome browser. Its alternative offering will be called "Privacy Sandbox," which provides a more privacy-friendly platform to deliver targeted advertising.
  • Microsoft has its new Edge web browser and plans to phase out support for third-party cookies.
  • Apple runs its proprietary Safari web browser and currently blocks third-party cookies by default. Apple users can now take advantage of new privacy features, which include requiring apps to obtain user consent before collecting their data.
  • Mozilla’s Firefox browser blocks third-party cookies by default and, like Safari, has new privacy features to block known trackers and scripts.
  • Brave, a privacy-focused browser, blocks third-party cookies by default and employs its proprietary advertising system to serve targeted ads.

New Technologies for Advertisers in the Post-Cookie World
Advertisers will need to adapt to the new cookieless environment by adopting new strategies and technologies, for example:

  • Alternative tracking technologies, which include browser fingerprinting, device-based tracking, and contextual advertising.
  • Contextual advertising serves ads based on the context of the website or app that the user is currently browsing. This is in lieu of detecting the user's browsing history or other personal data previously gathered by cookies.
  • First-party data that is collected directly from users by the website. This data is provided voluntarily and is considered more reliable than third-party, anonymized information.
  • Identity-based advertising, which involves directly targeting users based on their email addresses and other identifying information. This approach is also more privacy-friendly and can assist advertisers in reaching specific audiences without relying on third-party cookies.
  • Collaborative approaches cooperating with web publishers and other stakeholders in the advertising world. The goal is to develop innovative privacy-friendly approaches to targeting customers through data collection.

Where to Get Help in Adjusting to a Cookieless Environment
Cookieless advertising is just one of the challenges where you need to test your limits and leave your comfort zone. Go a step beyond with your targeted advertising. See how your branding is more than the sum of its parts, and why you need a strategy that will get your message out and make customers out of followers. That's what we do at Oxford Communications.