Google: Champions of Data Privacy?

In a move that has come as no surprise to those paying attention to browser privacy trends, Google announced earlier this week that they would be demising 3rd party cookies within 2 years.

Both Safari (ITP) and Firefox have blocked 3rd party cookies as default for over a year now. The core difference in this case is that Google, which has more than 65% browser share globally through Chrome, generates well over $100billion in digital ad revenue and owns 31.1% of the global digital advertising market.

Digital ad revenue which has been grown from advertiser’s desire to target and track customers and prospects across the online ecosystem through the use of cookies. Does this mean that Google are willing to jeopodise their mammoth advertising revenue in the virtuous pursuit of data privacy for its Chrome users?

Rather predictably, the answer is of course ‘No’.

Instead Google have been working over the last few years to become less reliant on 3rd party cookies. Now Google are less reliant than their competitors on 3rd party cookies it’s in their competitive interests to get rid of them all together and pull up the ladder.

Two key ways in which Google and the market as a whole have been developing are:

1.      Use of 1st party cookies

Google have spent the last 2-3 years advising and helping their ad tech customers migrate to the Google global site tag format. This tag allows Google to set 1st party, as opposed to 3rd party cookies, on advertiser and publisher websites where it is deployed.

Although ostensibly the tag still has the same functionality there is a core difference which means 1st party cookies are not blocked by browser privacy changes. This means that Google have been able to carry on with business as usual with users blocking 3rd party cookies by making this technical switch.

It’s important to note that Google are not the only ad tech firms utilising 1st party cookies in this way. Facebook made a similar change to its tagging infrastructure and other ad tech firms, such as analytics platforms, often function using 1st party cookies. However, Google’s position in ad tech is unique in that through buy and sell side ad servers, tag management, web analytics and Google Ads they have tags across the majority of the internet.

Apple, deciding this is not in the spirit of data privacy, have continued to iterate ITP and have now placed 24-hour windows on 1st party cookies, down from 30 days, which has led to the war to acquire login data.

2.      Use of emails, logged in data and cookie-less identifiers

An ever-expanding avenue for ad tech firms and publishers to target and track users is through logged in data and cookie-less identifiers. Getting users to willingly login to websites and platforms provides a rich source of 1st party data tied to an email address.

Facebook has had a large amount of success in recent years with many advertisers uploading hashed customer email addresses to create Facebook Custom Audiences of both known customers and lookalike prospecting audiences. Google has also been successful rolling out Customer Match using the same methodology, first through Google Ads, and now expanding into Display and Video 360. Again, Google are extremely well placed in the battle for login data, with over 1.5billion gmail accounts and several billion android smartphone users worldwide.

What should advertisers do?

Don’t panic!

There is still time to act and ensure that in a post 3rd party cookie world you can activate their 1st party data and track performance.

1.      Upgrade your tracking

Firstly, you should ensure that where possible your ad tech vendors are setting 1st party cookies. This has already been industry best practice for several years due to the Safari and Firefox changes.

2.      Speak to your existing ad tech vendors

The impact on vendors varies drastically dependent on your reliance on 3rd party cookies and your ability to transition to cookie-less solutions. Many established players will be working closely with Google to ensure your tech has means to still collect and activate post change.

3.      Ramp up your collection of 1st party data through cookie-less methods

Just as the ad tech firms are battling for user logins advertisers should be looking to tie users to a unique identifier wherever possible. To do this the advertisers need to offer a value exchange to users. Asking customers for email addresses to send receipts at in-store tills is not good enough!

4.      Find and test new ad tech vendors who have future-proofed themselves

This can be done both through testing the performance new functionality (check) within Google, such as Customer Match, but also by sourcing new innovations within the market which inevitably spring from major disruption.

5.      Do your due diligence

Only advertisers and their partners can judge their current exposure to the changes. Each advertisers action will depend on their current ad tech mix. All new partners should be vetted through the knowledge of the upcoming changes.

If you’re unsure of the likely impact on your business and what you can be doing to future-proof yourself please feel free to reach out.

#dataprivacy #cookiesless #chromebrowser