What's Going On With Google and Cookies?

Angela Shaffield Picture

by Angela Shaffield | Last Updated: Apr 5, 2023

Every brand is going to be asking themselves “How do I get customer data?” if or dare I say when Google does away with third-party cookie data. If you’re in the dark about what or why this is happening here is what you’re missing. 

What are Cookies?

When you visit a website, your web server transfers a small packet of data to your device’s browser. This packet of data is a computer cookie. Computer cookies are small files of information about you and your website activity. These computer cookies can be sent back and forth each time you open a new website page. It's a way for the website to remember you, your preferences, and your online habits. These computer cookies are not necessarily bad. Like everything in our lives, there are pros and cons to using cookies, and there are different types of cookies that you can choose to allow or block when visiting a website.  Like baked cookies, computer cookies come in different flavors: persistent cookies, session cookies, and third-party cookies. Each serves a different purpose. A supercookie is a type of tracking cookie that is not just on a browser level, but on a network level. Supercookies can travel across browsers and are permanent. The threat supercookies face us with is that they can access your data on a network level even after you have deleted your cookies.

Replacing Third-Party Cookies

Third-party cookies are phasing out due to consumers demanding privacy, including transparency, choice, and control over how their data is used. Mozilla, Firefox, and Apple Safari have already done away with third-party cookies. Google also announced that its browser and search engine would no longer support third-party cookies. This puts a lot of marketers in a tough position when they use third-party cookie data for advertising to their customers. However not all is lost, after Google does away with cookies there are still going to be ways to market and advertise to consumers. One way is not to rely on browser data at all. A lot of companies are already preparing for this change by using strategies to capture zero-party data. Zero-party data is a term coined by Forrester Research. Forrester Research’s definition of zero-party data is as follows: “Zero-party data is that which a customer intentionally and proactively shares with a brand. It can include preference center, purchase intentions, personal context, and how the individual wants the brand to recognize (them).”  A brand can capture zero-party data by asking its customers directly through surveys, questionnaires, pop-ups, and customer profiles. Customers can usually find surveys or pop-ups on the brand’s website, mobile or email subscriptions, or even in-store by scanning a QR code. Another way is to use what Google predicts will directly replace third-party cookies. Google recognizes that marketers will be affected because they rely on third-party cookies to provide them with analytics data. This hasn't changed their decision to do away with third-party cookie data because they claim to have implemented what seems to be a more secure alternative. Google says Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), also known as Privacy Sandbox, is a privacy-first and internet-based advertising technology (AdTech). Google’s web browser, Chrome, will do this instead of using third-party cookies to track an individual’s online habits across the web. Users will be placed into groups or cohorts based on their habits. Advertisers can then feel free to target their ads to these cohorts rather than individual users. As you know, market trends change all the time and it's important to stay one step ahead of them. Google can change its privacy policies as much as they like, but if you have zero-party data, you own it and no one can take it away from you.

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