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What changes for our internet browsing now that Google has eliminated cookies

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What changes for our internet browsing now that Google has eliminated cookies

They are used to track the habits of people who surf the net. But since January 4, Google has started eliminating third-party cookies from its very popular Chrome browser, those files that mark user behavior and which are also responsible for the personalized advertisements we see on the websites we browse and on our social profiles. Cookies collect a multitude of valuable data because they profile users based on their interests, preferences and purchases. A real tracking system of our habits and of the individual consumer.

The Californian tech giant’s initiative to eliminate cookies, for now, concerns the random 1% of Chrome users who will see the “Tracking Protection” function enabled in their browser. Translated, around 30 million people can finally browse online without being constantly asked if they want to accept cookies, and which ones they want to accept. By September 2024, Google plans to permanently disable third-party cookies for all its users.

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The measures adopted undoubtedly imply new challenges for online advertising operators, website managers and internet users. However, this decision paves the way for the application of marketing models focused on transparency and the absolute priority of the privacy of those who surf.

What are cookies and what are they for?

Cookies are small text files that are saved on your device when you visit a website. These files contain information that is used to improve the browsing experience and provide personalized services and targeted advertising. Cookies perform different functions and a distinction must be made between technical cookies and profiling cookies.

I technical cookies allow us to improve the browsing experience, storing information that allows the website to memorize the user’s choices as they move from one page to another, think of the language settings, or the products we have added to the cart, thus ensuring simplicity of navigation. This data does not require explicit consent, and is for the exclusive use of the owner of the service. THE profiling cookies, instead, they collect information relating to users’ interests, allowing behavioral profiling of individual visitors. The data is then used to offer advertising content even when the site being browsed is abandoned.

Profiling cookies can be first or third party and require consent. First-party data is that collected directly by the owner of the site and refers to the interests found while browsing the site. Which articles did the user visit? Which products did you add to your cart.

Third-party data is that collected by a company that offers external profiling services that has a direct relationship with the owner of the site, who has agreed to the sharing of this information to combine it with others collected on other web pages to allow the processing of very detailed profiles. The data is collected from multiple sources, aggregated and associated with a single identifier: the device ID. Device IDs, and associated behavioral characteristics, are shared with companies who use them to enrich their first-party data, or to target consumers with advertisements.

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What changes when you delete cookies? The word to the expert

From January 4, Google began gradually eliminating third-party cookies from its Chrome browser. The change is objectively epochal, cookies have been part of our digital life for about thirty years. So, what changes for the user, how the consumer will be tracked by the internet giants, and in which direction the companies operating in the online advertising sector are moving, are some of the questions we asked our expert sector. Marcello Gruppo, Insights Director Southern Europe at Ogury.

Why the decision to disable cookies?

“Because continuing to use them is socially unacceptable: it has been demonstrated how the use of behavioral data associated with the device ID can be used to influence the choices, not only of consumption, of internet users. We add that the GDPR has defined the device ID as personal data as it is directly or indirectly attributable to a physical subject, increasing the urgency of a reaction from the digital advertising market”.

What does this mean in practice?

“Advertisers and media agencies will not be able to track a user’s online activity to provide their services, such as advertisements. One of the effects will be the elimination of so-called ‘retargeting’, i.e. online ads aimed at people who have already interacted with a website by adding, for example, a product to the cart and not completing the purchase.

In essence, deleting third-party cookies represents a significant step forward for consumer privacy. Consumers should, in fact, be certain that their every interest, move or purchase is not shared with any type of company (including companies they have never heard of). It is clear that as long as third-party cookies exist, the technical mechanism to track people’s browsing and online behavior will continue to exist, and the related risk of data leakage or improper use.”

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How does Google make money without cookies?

“Google has created the Privacy Sandbox, a collection of technologies that attempt to enable privacy-safe advertising within Chrome. This is Google’s solution to replace cookies with open browser-based standards, with numerous integrations with applications (the so-called APIs), each of which presents itself as an alternative to different needs/use cases of cookies. The Mountain View giant has invested heavily in implementing sophisticated privacy controls to ensure compliance and make re-identification impossible. However, we are talking about a technology that is not yet tested, to date no known advertiser is exploiting it in a significant way with proven results, the market still needs time”.

How do companies operating in the online advertising sector do it? Are they prepared?

“Understanding and navigating the available technologies is not an easy task and requires technical skills. But let’s start with certain data: our recent research found that the majority of marketers (60%) agree that user tracking will soon become obsolete. However, 41% are unaware of targeting technologies that don’t use advertising identifiers, while 32% of respondents said they want to change the type of AdTech vendors they work with. Among these, 64% said they will increase budgets towards operators that do not use third-party cookies or collect personal data in any way. At Ogury, we have developed our own, non-ID-based technology that allows advertisers to reach their audiences at any scale, without collecting or using any personal data. With this approach, brands and their media centers will be able to grow in this new challenge to which the digital advertising sector is called.”

Why have the Safari and Firefox browsers already implemented a similar functionality for several years?

“Safari, Firefox and the iPhone iOS ecosystem have moved quickly to meet the growing need for privacy among users, communicating it as a differentiating feature of their technologies. “Privacy. That’s iPhone” is the main advertising message of Apple’s latest campaigns, thus promoting the abandonment of third-party cookies which, in fact, are the tool that allows the profiling of device IDs. Furthermore, as we were saying, strong social pressure has emerged which has also offered a positioning opportunity: users are increasingly rejecting the tracking of their browsing behavior en masse. At the same time, regulators around the world are attuned to consumer concerns and have responded with a variety of privacy regulations, such as the GDPR and CCPA. That’s why Apple and Mozilla have been implementing these features for some time.”

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What is the impact?

“The elimination of cookies in Safari, Firefox and Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) are already showing their significant impact, particularly for direct consumer brands that launch their products and news online, making it increasingly difficult to track users in the digital sphere, personalize and measure campaign performance. Attention is now focused on the discontinuation of cookies by Google Chrome, but we must keep in mind that Google is only a slice, albeit a large one, of the pie and that the rest of our ecosystem has already eliminated these third-party cookies. This is why Adtech companies are forced to take this trend into consideration when developing their products.”

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How will we be tracked?

Several technologies have emerged in recent years, particularly those based on shared IDs within micro-ecosystems. One of these identifiers is the email address we used to register on the various sites we are fond of. With anonymization technologies the email address can be used as an alternative to the device ID.

Apple recently released the “hide my email” service which allows you to register on websites with a fictitious email that changes with each subscription, making it ineffective as a unique identifier. Contextual targeting is another option, which respects privacy but has limited reach. For example, those who browse the video game trials on Italian Tech may receive an advertisement for a video game. But this type of targeting is elementary and limited, because people have multiple interests and can be interested in gaming even if they don’t visit a site dedicated to this theme.”

In conclusion?

“To overcome these limitations, ‘Personified Advertising’ was created in 2021. It targets personas rather than identified users, focusing on the platforms where individuals consume content. This data model is based on proprietary sources, including surveys distributed by publishing partners, enabling effective targeting at scale without relying on cookies or tracking mechanisms. This approach prioritizes privacy, while allowing the internet to remain free and sustainable thanks to online advertising, which is essential to support platforms and media.”

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