Five Reasons to Cheer at the Death of Third-Party Cookies

June 18, 2020

Third party cookies are almost as old as the web itself and for the last 30 years have been used to track and target online consumers. However, earlier this year Google announced it will block all third-party cookies on its Chrome browser by 2022.

“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," said a Google blog post.

Even though the big G scrambled for an alternative to a blanket ban (think Privacy Sandbox) the decision to remove all third-party cookies was eventually taken as a way to “fundamentally enhance privacy” for Chrome users around the world.

This move may also be in anticipation of the incoming ePrivacy Regulation, the draft of which has currently stalled in the EU Council, but could well have an impact on the use of third-party cookies for analytics and advertising. The Regulation is subject to lobbying from businesses and advertisers so it is very possible a political fudge will be the conclusion in any event.

Are there any cookies left in the tin?

First-party cookies are created by the websites you visit and are used to memorise your password, maintain your web preferences and keep items in your shopping basket. These are generally seen as “good” cookies.

In contrast, third-party cookies are created by parties other than those that own the website you’re currently visiting. They are predominately used for tracking and advertising.

Have you ever done a Google search to find a flamingo coffee mug, and later that day received an email to your Gmail account that contains a flamingo coffee mug ad? That’s not magic folks; that’s third-party cookies!

Most browsers accept first-party cookies by default as they’re intended to be helpful, while third-party cookies must be accepted by informed, specific and freely given consent. They cannot be accepted by a pre-ticked box and a user should (in theory) be able to decline all third-party cookies.  

Despite these rules, research shows that only 11.8% of sites meet the expectations set out in the GDPR. So, to ensure compliance and protect privacy rights, Google has fallen in line with Apple and Mozilla and restricted the number of advertising cookies placed on websites accessed through its Chrome browser.

What does all this mean for your business you ask?

While Google’s decision may come as a shock to some businesses, time to dust off ‘Plan B’ if you rely on analytical and tracking cookies, and will cause a drop in publishers’ revenue, the truth is third-party cookies have been slowly crumbling away for some time now.

Here’s five reasons why we should be looking forward to the death of third-party cookies in 2022 and not getting ready to put our sad faces on:

1. Your privacy will be better protected

Number one on the list and the primary driver for Google making the decision to ban third-party cookies. While these cookies are not harmful themselves, they use your browsing history to later deliver targeted ads that can seem invasive and creepy. Without third-party cookies, you should be able to freely use the web without a fear of being targeted by another flamingo coffee mug ad!

2. First-party cookies are not going anywhere

Even though many of us love Jaffa Cakes (biscuit or cake?) our lives wouldn’t end if they disappeared from store shelves tomorrow, as we will always have our trusted friend the good old shortbread.

The same is true with website cookies. Even if third-party cookies are banned by all web browsers by 2022, first-party cookies are not going anywhere.

So, if you’re a business that only tracks user behaviour on your own website, this isn’t going to impact you much. However, if your business is heavily reliant on third-party cookies, you should look at alternative solutions such as Google Privacy Sandbox.

3. Google Privacy Sandbox

To help marketers continue to publish and send ads to the right audience, Google has introduced Privacy Sandbox.

While many businesses have criticised the tool, saying that it allows Google to hold too much personal data (surely not), it does serve as an alternative solution for many advertisers and their publishing partners.

Moreover, tools like Privacy Sandbox could pave the way for new data-driven alternatives to emerge following the death of third-party cookies.

4. Good old keyword advertising

As third-party cookies developed and become more sophisticated, many advertisers moved away from keyword contextual-based advertising. However, with the end now in sight for third-party cookies, many businesses will have to revert budget back to keyword advertising.

With keyword advertising you see ads based on the content you are searching for in the here and now, instead of your overall online profile and behaviour. So, when you are looking at your flamingo blog, you get flamingo-related ads, and nothing else.

5. People are shifting to smartphones

Third-party cookies were disappearing even before Google made its announcement. Indeed, over 86% of consumer data has already vanished as smartphone and tablet usage has increased (third-party cookies aren’t supported on these devices).

Here at Plume we’re complete data protection geeks. If you’d like to discuss first-party cookies, third-party cookies or anything else privacy related, please get in touch.

Receive our insights directly to your inbox by signing up to our newsletter

Recommended content