Privacy issues have always been a key concern by internet users. Despite the claims of a personalized and enhanced user experience, many people still prefer to keep their browsing data private rather than let browsers and search engines collect it. Google’s competitors like Safari and Firefox have already taken definitive steps to protect user’s privacy through the blocking of third-party cookies, but Google itself showed a bit of reluctance at the time.
Finally, in January 2020, Google’s top director, Justin Schuh, announced a move to follow suit with its Chrome Browser, citing mainly privacy concerns. The director, however, indicated a much different approach to the blocking of third-party cookies. Where other browsers embarked on an immediate lock, Google Chrome chose to do it in phases.
Is It Genuine Move?
The news of this move was met with quite a bit of uproar from marketers. Cookies are a very essential part of marketing campaigns, and these marketing companies earn millions yearly thanks to these cookies. However, it’s not only the marketers making money out of user data, but Google itself also cashes in on targeted ads, and this move effectively cripples all its competitors.
Having said that, the way that cookies operate to provide targeted is nothing short of worrisome and great privacy infringement. The fact that several others have already initiated the ban, however, suggests that there’s nothing sinister about the move. The advertising industry will surely suffer from the move. Yet the privacy gains for users is definitely a welcome change that will boost confidence for users that their browsing history and general online activity is private and secure.
How do These Cookies Operate Anyway?
To simplify, cookies can be regarded as data stores of user activities and preferences when surfing the web. This means cookies are digital ‘spies’ that are there to learn your online habits. As off-putting as this probably sounds, the intention behind cookies was to personalize each user’s experience. For instance, first-party cookies (those belonging to the particular site that you’re visiting) would help determine which language you prefer to browse in and hence help to translate to that language on every visit or at least give you that option promptly.
The bad rap for cookies, however, comes from the third-party cookies. These generally belong to other companies, other than the one whose site you’re visiting. For instance, you could get an ad for a company that sells spare parts while you’re busy reading about troubleshooting car problems on a self-help website. These ads are a result of such third-party cookies that are busy tracking your activity, often leading users to wonder how come such an add knew when to popup. What’s even creepier is that these cookies can even track your activity when you aren’t even aware of it, no warning whatsoever!
Effects of Move
The move to remove third-party cookies surely comes with its consequences, but the question is whom it affects? For the user, it’s definitely a great improvement on privacy levels as mentioned earlier. However, other schools of thought seem to believe that it will lead to a lot of irrelevant ads being targeted to users. Without learning your activity and preference, marketers feel like consumers will soon be annoyed by ads that don’t address their current needs at all. In contrast, others believe there are better ways to create relevant targeted ads than through these creepy cookies.
For advertisers, this is a true spanner in the spokes moment! Many brands’ success was mainly caused by these third-party cookies, and the block will cripple their business to the fullest extent. However, it’s definitely not the end of the road. There are several equally effective marketing strategies that they can still employ, such as ‘search’ advertising whereby they would market their products and services directly to the consumers in need instead of indirectly targeting them.
The plan, according to Justin, is to have banned all third-party cookies by 2022. In their place, Google has suggested several new technologies that can help target relevant ads but without the privacy-invasion notoriety of cookies. Of course, it remains to be seen whether these new technologies do not pose new privacy threats that we will figure out eventually. After all, cookies were never designed to be as invasive as they have become yet, here we are!