Whether we’re ready for it (or have even heard of it), the ‘cookiepocalypse’ is coming. By the end of 2023, Google and other “tech giants” are planning to end the use of third-party cookies. This massive shift in policy will have an unequivocal effect on user privacy. But as Big Tech comes to terms with how this will change marketing and cross-channel audiences, there are other concerns, as well. Because while the “tech giants” might have their own vision for a world without cookies, other companies are leading the resistance with a keen eye toward protecting user data. Although the true ‘cookiepocalypse’ is still a little way off, it is never too early to stay informed about your data and your rights.
First things first: In case you need a reminder on what a cookie is (no, we’re not referring to soft and chewy chocolate chip treats), they are a way for companies to track and remember user data. As small pieces of text that are sent to your browser when you visit a website, cookies allow companies to better promote products and sell customers what they might want to buy.
Based on this description, you might be wondering, why are cookies going away? We are entering a “cookie-less future” largely because big tech companies like Google and Apple have set the standard to do away with cookies in their own marketing. These companies are responding to growing customer concerns around privacy, and they’re working to regain consumer trust regarding sensitive information and data. Because many other sites are reliant on Apple and/or Google to help sell their products, it really does mean the end of cookies as we know them. What’s coming next is still a little unclear.
There are varying opinions on what the cookieless future will mean for consumers. Experts are warning the average user to stay informed with every new shift, as the increase in user privacy does not necessarily mean that that user privacy will be fully protected. In fact, it’s possible that the end of third-party cookies will lead to the unwilling collection of even more personal information. For instance, as companies and advertisers have less access to mobile IDs and third-party cookies, there will most likely be more collecting of what is called deterministic data, for example email addresses. This means that companies will be looking to collect even more personally identifiable information than ever before.
What should we be expecting in the near future? While it’s important to stay vigilant about when and where your data is being tracked, the more immediate impacts of the data shift aren’t quite so sinister. We’re already seeing a lot more contextual tracking and targeting, as well as behavioral tracking and targeting. In layman’s terms: A lot of ads targeted to you by what you’re already looking at.