What should replace the third-party cookie?
Google will block third-party cookies in Chrome browser within two years. Chrome’s user base is so large that the change will have significant impacts on the digital advertising ecosystem. Currently, third-party cookies have an important role for instance in targeting and programmatic buying. Immediately after Google’s announcement there were speculations about what will replace third-party cookies in the future. The view of the future seems to vary quite a bit depending on who is asked. In this post, we’ll open up Google’s vision for the topic a bit. But let’s start with a little recap of what even is a cookie?
What is a cookie?
A cookie is a small text file that is stored on a user’s device by an Internet browser. Cookies are used, for example, to store user information when moving from one web page to another. First-party cookies are stored directly in the website you’re visiting. In addition, the website may use external services that store their own cookies. These are called third-party cookies. Cookies do not contain users’ personal information and as such are not used to identify individual users. Some cookies expire at the end of a site session, while others remain longer on your device.
Cookies are used for many different purposes. Cookies allow you to use the functions of the website and to provide the best possible user experience. For example, when a browser has information about a visitor’s choice of language and device, it is possible to provide them directly with the appropriate language and device-specific page version, thus facilitating the use of the site. Cookies also allow, among other things, different tracking tools, as well as personalized content, offers, functionalities, and ads on a per-visitor basis.
Google’s idea is to replace cookies with browser-based open standards, the “Privacy Sandbox” project has been launched to find their final forms. The open-source initiative was launched last August. It’s unquestionably said to be Google’s response to the growing pressure to improve privacy, ensure free advertising-funded content, and possibly block other parties’ cookies. According to Google, the goal is to create a secure standard for personalization while respecting user privacy. Google says that reaching this goal requires new approaches to ensure relevant advertising in the future too.
The Privacy Sandbox project aims to minimize the information that is shared between websites and advertisers and to store a larger part of the visitor information on the visitor’s device only. Google’s project envisions targeted advertising and measuring conversions through Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) in a browser environment. A total of at least five different interfaces have been designed, each meeting different needs. These interfaces would be used by all stakeholders.
What kind of interfaces might be coming up?
(Situation may change fast, text updated 18.3.2020)
To fight spam, fraud, and DoS (denial of service):
- Trust token API – would be Google’s alternative to CAPTCHA. It would only ask a Chrome user to fill in an identifier like CAPTCHA once and then, based on this stored information, could be trusted as a natural person.
- Aggregated Reporting API – would allow multiple sites to be aggregated into a single report.
- Conversion measurement API – would allow advertisers to know who saw the ad and then purchased the product or service or landed on the campaign page.
- FLoC API – (Federated Learning of Cohorts) – would be a new way that browsers could enable interest-based advertising on the web, in which the companies who today observe the browsing behavior of individuals instead observe the behavior of a cohort (or “flock”) of similar people.
- Turtledove API – (Two Uncorrelated Requests, Then Locally-Executed Decision On Victory) allows targeting of advertising based on interests. Interest categories would be stored in the visitor’s browser and the information would remain there always. The Turtledove API would allow targeting, but not collecting or combining personally identifiable information with other information.
Google has announced its willingness to work together openly to ensure that the Privacy Sandbox -project benefits all stakeholders. Google collects feedback and suggestions on what users are concerned about and what would be the best way to share the information
stored in their browsers. Google also wants general feedback and suggestions on Application Programming Interfaces (API). Critics have speculated that Google would just like to have more control over digital advertising. At least in principle, the move is a deliberate and sensible approach that leverages strengths – a vast ecosystem combined with powerful data collection and management capabilities – to maintain Google’s dominance.
The end result is a shared digital identifier?
The ultimate goal of the process is to convert interfaces into open network standards that could theoretically be used in other browsers too. The creation of a shared digital identifier has been anticipated as a result of Google’s Privacy Sandbox, but Google has not yet verified this information. Indeed, advertisers are now trying to determine if the standards of the Privacy Sandbox project will clear a path between Google and other parties. Would everyone have access to the same information, or would Google keep some information in itself or in its own environment to secure its position?
Although there have been some rapid changes in Chrome browser updates (like blocking fingerprinting), Google has stated that this type of project is a complex process and, based on experience, changes in the ecosystem are time-consuming. It requires reflection, discussion and input from many stakeholders for years.
We at Relevant will follow the development of the situation and continue to share it to our blog followers. Jump into our monthly newsletter to stay updated!