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Cookies are small text files that are placed on a user’s computer or device when they visit a website. These files contain data that is specific to the user and the website they are visiting, such as login credentials, user preferences, and browsing history.

Cookies are used to improve the user experience by remembering user preferences, login information, and other details that can help make the website more personalised and user-friendly. For example, cookies can remember a user’s language preference or shopping cart contents.

There are different types of cookies, such as session cookies, which are temporary and only last until the user closes their browser, and persistent cookies, which remain on the user’s device until they expire or are manually deleted.

While cookies are generally harmless, there are concerns about privacy and security, as cookies can be used to track user activity and collect personal information. As a result, many web browsers allow users to control how cookies are used or block them altogether.

So what are third party cookies?

Third-party cookies are small text files stored in a user’s browser by a website that is different from the one the user is visiting. These cookies are placed by third-party domains or websites that are not the main domain or website that the user is interacting with.

For example, if a user visits a website and that website includes an advertisement from a different domain, the advertisement might contain a third-party cookie. This cookie can be used to track the user’s online activity and gather information about their interests, behaviours, and preferences.

Third-party cookies are often used for advertising and marketing purposes, as they allow advertisers to track user behaviour across multiple websites and target them with relevant ads. However, they can also be used for more nefarious purposes, such as tracking user activity without their knowledge or consent.

In recent years, there has been a growing concern about third-party cookies and their impact on user privacy. As a result, many web browsers have started to block or limit third-party cookies by default.

How can third party cookies impact user privacy?

Third-party cookies can impact user privacy in several ways.

Firstly, third-party cookies can be used to track a user’s online activity across multiple websites, allowing advertisers to build a profile of the user’s interests, behaviours, and preferences. This can result in targeted advertising, which some users may find intrusive or invasive.

Secondly, third-party cookies can be used to collect personal information, such as name, email address, and browsing history, without the user’s knowledge or consent. This information can then be sold or shared with other companies, which can further compromise the user’s privacy.

Thirdly, third-party cookies can be used for cross-site request forgery (CSRF) attacks, in which a website or web application is tricked into performing an action that the user did not intend. This can lead to unauthorised access to the user’s personal information, such as bank account or credit card details.

Due to these concerns, many web browsers have started to block or limit third-party cookies by default, and some countries have implemented privacy regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union or the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the US to protect user privacy.

Is Google phasing out the third party cookie?

Yes, Google has announced that it will phase out support for third-party cookies in its Chrome browser by 2023. This move is part of Google’s efforts to improve user privacy on the web and to provide a more sustainable solution for targeted advertising.

Instead of using third-party cookies, Google is developing an alternative approach called the Privacy Sandbox, which is a set of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that will allow advertisers to target specific groups of users without relying on individual user data. The Privacy Sandbox will use techniques such as federated learning and differential privacy to analyse user behaviour without identifying individual users.

Google has stated that its goal is to create a more privacy-friendly web while still allowing for relevant and personalised advertising. However, some critics have raised concerns about the potential for Google to maintain its dominant position in the online advertising industry and the potential impact on smaller advertisers and publishers. Nonetheless, the phasing out of third-party cookies in Chrome is a significant development in the ongoing debate over online privacy and data protection.

What will happen without third party cookies?

Without third-party cookies, the online advertising industry will need to find new ways to target ads to users and measure the effectiveness of their advertising campaigns. However, there are several alternatives being developed, including:

First-party data: Advertisers can rely on first-party data, which is the data collected directly from their own website or app, to target ads to users. This data can include user preferences, purchase history, and other information that users have provided directly to the advertiser.

Contextual advertising: Advertisers can use contextual advertising, which involves targeting ads based on the content of the website or app that the user is currently viewing. For example, if a user is browsing a website about cars, they might be shown ads for car accessories or insurance.

New technologies: New technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence can be used to analyse user behaviour and interests without relying on individual user data.

Cohort-based targeting: Google is developing an alternative approach called Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), which groups users with similar browsing behaviour into cohorts, and advertisers can target ads to those cohorts instead of individual users.

It remains to be seen how effective these alternatives will be in providing relevant and personalised advertising while protecting user privacy. However, the phasing out of third-party cookies is a significant development in the ongoing debate over online privacy and data protection.

If you are looking for advice on how this might affect your marketing strategy, reach out to Newpath. We are a leading full service digital agency that can devise the best online marketing mix to support your business goals.

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