In March 2021, Google announced it will join Safari and Firefox in blocking third-party cookies in its Chrome web browser. However, unlike those browsers (which already block them by default), Google intends to take a phased approach. Justin Schuh, the director at engineering for Chrome, writes that Google’s “intention is to do this within two years.”
Google explained that this move was to protect users asking for more privacy: "Users are demanding greater privacy--including transparency, choice, and control over how their data is used--and it’s clear the web ecosystem needs to evolve to meet these increasing demands," the blog post read. Which means according to Schuh’s above mentioned timeline, the change will take place in 2022.
Update (April 2022): The move has been pushed several times and is slated to actually take place in 2023. Google initially announced their third-party cookie phase-out in January 2020, but pushed out the deadline in March of last year. Google’s new plan is to completely get rid of third-party cookies by 2023. The new deadline gives Google and other industry leaders time to plan for the change.
In order to understand the implications of such such a huge shift in tracking and security policy, one first needs the context and definitions relevant to crux of these issues.
There are essentially two types of cookies – first-party and third-party. From a technical perspective, there is no real difference between the two types of cookies; they both contain the same pieces of information and can perform the same functions. Read more about cookies in this article.
The real difference between the types of cookies has to do with how they are created and subsequently used, which often depends on the context.
First-party cookies are stored by the domain (website) you are visiting directly. They allow website owners to collect analytics data, remember language settings, and perform other useful functions that help provide a good user experience.
Third-party cookies are created by domains other than the one you are visiting, hence the name third-party. They are used for cross-site tracking, retargeting and ad-serving. The death of the third-party cookie will create more privacy for internet users as they move across the web. But, the change presents a large challenge for marketers who rely on third-party data and programmatic advertising to drive their campaigns.
Context and Industry Response
If/ when this all comes to pass, it would radically shift the way ad tracking and privacy work on the web. The larger conversation here is about personal data and privacy and the general trend we are seeing, across all industries, to shift as much as possible to first party data. Meaning, companies and brands will need to rely more on their own data and first party data agreements.
Equally important to note however, is that much of the recent coverage and discussion surrounding this move is in direct response to and as a result of Apple’s latest iOS14 policy adjustment visavis tracking within and between apps. So while Google is already testing alternatives to 3rd party cookie tracking like a new approach called Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), which allows ads to be targeted at large groups of users based on common interests, Apple and Facebook have yet to explicitly outline their own approaches on the matter.
TechCrunch and many others have already begun to speculate as to how the industry will need to shift and where the new battles between advertising and publisher interests vs. privacy concerns will be fought.
How does this impact Fullpath
Fullpath’s proprietary tracking (which intuitively is 3rd party tracking in that we are tracking on behalf of the dealer) is actually designed as a dual layer system where the core is first party and the 3rd party component is more of a back up.
As a Google Premier Partner, Fullpath strives to maintain any standards and best practices that Google provides and recommends. While no adjustments are required to our system at the moment, we will be closely monitoring Google search and display campaign performance and making the necessary changes to our campaigns structure, account settings, or code snippet if and when the time comes.
Should adjustments be necessary, you will be notified and actions will occur automatically, across all clients, campaigns, and ads with minimal to no impact on account performance. This of course, being the benefit of AI and automation - the ability to anticipate, adjust, and execute with the greatest speed, scale, and specificity.