Indeed you have read in some more or less specialized medium that the digital world is somewhat stirred up by the disappearance of third-party cookies (3rd party cookies) at the end of this year.
If you are, like most Internet users, those who have spent years and years suffering in silence, that every time you visit a web page, it asks you to accept the happy cookies, it must sound like good news, right?
Let’s see if it is so.
What are cookies?
If you have accepted thousands of cookies for a long time, but you are still unsure what they are, I will present them to you. Cookies are computer files that web servers can save on your device when you visit them. That file marks you with a unique number, and when you visit that website again, the server can recognize you by reading that file you placed previously.
This “recognition” is used for various subjects. Cookies allow websites to function correctly when you use them (known as necessary), to personalize the content according to your needs (known as preferences), which allow the owner of the website to have statistics on the use of this (analytics) and advertising campaigns that will enable you to customize advertising campaigns depending on your user profile (known as marketing).
Are any of the cookies described above going to disappear at the end of the year?
Well, no, none of them will disappear, and, I’m sorry to say, you will continue to have to accept or not accept cookies when you browse the web.
So what will happen at the end of the year? Well, it will occur that Chrome, the browser owned by Google, as less used browsers such as Safari or Firefox has for a long time, will block the possibility of placing third-party cookies in your browser. That means that Chrome will allow you to save cookies from the server where you are browsing and not from third-party servers as it happens now.
Who are those third-party servers? By marking your browser on different web pages, advertising service servers can personalize the advertising that serves you on those websites depending on variables such as whether or not you have seen that campaign before or if you browse baby content, help brand campaigns. Who is looking for that type of user?
What the initiative seeks is, therefore, to safeguard the privacy of users who could be marked by those third parties and follow part of the activity they carry out on the web through their browsers. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Wait, is Google taking a step against your business to guarantee my privacy?
Well, it sounds strange. Google dominates by making round numbers more than a third of digital advertising worldwide (yes, you read 35% correctly), and it will not do anything to jeopardize that leadership. Then?
The two great dominators of global digital investment (Google and Facebook ) do not need cookies to track your activity while you browse. By having services in which you have to validate your username and password when using them (Android, Gmail, Youtube, Facebook, Instagram…), cookies are no longer necessary to make that advertising personalization.
So much so that Google, in a very timely manner, has offered a solution to the digital advertising ecosystem to continue segmenting digital campaigns. It is about FLoC (‘Federated Learning of Cohorts’) that will give advertisers the possibility of impacting users with a defined profile depending on the information that Google collects from them without marking them individually as cookies do.
In addition to this Google initiative, others appear on the market that we could call “Universal ID,” where different private companies offer user marking solutions based on registration. In this way, if I am registered with the same email on two websites and navigate identified in them, these companies will carry out a mache of those users to be able to use it similarly to the way cookies currently do.
Okay. And how do all these initiatives affect me as a user? And if my company makes investments in digital advertising, will this new scenario make its assets more efficient?
From the point of view of your privacy on the net, I don’t think this situation improves your life too much. Especially if you are reading me from a country in the European Union. The general data protection regulation obliges companies to explain in an easy way that they will place cookies and to give us tools so that if we do not want them, they do not save them in our browser. The control that advertising companies have over our cookies profiles is low, and it does not cross devices if we use different devices to navigate, such as mobile phones, tablets, or PCs. The life of cookies is very short in time, and the amount of personal information that can be inferred with them is meager; and also, you must always have given explicit permission to do so.
On the other hand, registration-based systems (Google, Facebook, Spotify, Twitter, Amazon…) are much more intensive in data collection since they can follow you indistinctly in what you do in their properties. That of their partners with all your devices and your account is a more durable identifier. This situation also affects new solutions such as “Universal ID.”
In the case of the marketing and advertising industry, things are not looking good either
Blocking third-party cookies reinforces the triopoly in advertising investment ( Google, Facebook, and Amazon have 2/3 of advertising investment in the USA in 2020 ). A market controlled by few is unhealthy regarding competition, possibilities, transparency, and costs. And this new scenario makes them more competitive in the market than the rest that most base their ability to optimize advertising campaigns on cookies.
Initiatives like Google’s FLoC aim to control more of the third of investment that they do not handle with proprietary technology and if it is the same as the rest of the company’s advertising products that are not transparent and auditable. So much so that this initiative is being rejected by some crucial players in the digital market.
But if you have come this far, I think the answer to the question in the title is clear. The one who does not win insurance is the end-user. Your data will continue to be used for advertising campaigns, with more persistent and person-based models (not on the device such as cookies) and without decision-making capacity.
In addition, an advertising market dominated by few agents endangers the rest of the companies, in many cases independent media. We can also reach an environment where the algorithms of a few dominate your vision of what is happening in the world. And that, my friend, sure is not good for you.