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Goodbye Cookies! New Data Trends in 2021

Image of baked cookies

We need to talk about cookies. Unfortunately not the delicious chocolate chip kind, but the premise of these data morsels are crumbling all the same. Originally designed to report back to a website with information on whether you’ve visited them before, the rumours and legislation surrounding cookies, and how they work, have been widely debated over the past few years. The use of cookies is sometimes a controversial topic regarding personal privacy and data laws but these tiny files also offer a wide range of benefits. The laws surrounding cookies are slowly changing as innovations and technologies are updating, so let’s dive into all the new information on cookie trends in 2021.

What Are Cookies?

Third-party tracking cookies are tiny text files. When you visit a website, a cookie will be created containing a unique user ID and the website address, and this cookie will then be stored on your computer. The next time you visit the same website your computer checks for relevant cookies and loads any appropriate information or data, such as remembering items left in a shopping cart, or on the other hand, not displaying a pop-up offer dedicated to first time users if you’re a returning visitor to the website.

First-Party Cookies

First-party cookies are files stored by the host website and are generally thought to be useful as they remember passwords, usernames and language preferences which speeds up and enhances user experience.

Third-Party Cookies

Third-party cookies are the cookies which are deemed by some to be more controversial. They’re files stored by third-party companies, such as advertisers, that track your activity, analyse the information and then show relevant ads and information. Third-party cookies are a contentious subject as they build a long term profile of a web user’s activity, including shopping habits, preferences and interests, which could arguably be seen as an invasion of privacy. With this in mind, third-party cookies are now being phased out and other tracking trends are taking their place.

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Why Third-Party Cookies Are Being Phased Out

Although third-party cookies can be rejected and deleted by consumers, it is up to the vendor or web host to ensure cookie policies are up to date and comply with the latest legislation. Third-party cookies were, for a time, created automatically with no restrictions until new rules came into effect from the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) stating that cookies should be opt-in and not opt-out, so the user had a choice in whether they wanted their information tracked and stored.

This means many of the ways websites used to track user activity became illegal and three of the big named browsers; Safari, Chrome and Firefox, have now blocked the use of third-party cookies by default. In response to the change in law and to consumer opinion, brands have therefore created alternatives to cookie based advertising and measurement whilst also fulfilling PECR (Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations) guidelines.

However, there is concern from advertisers and media users that the cull of third-party cookies will invariably make it harder for them to give the most effective experience to users. With many concerned about how impactful performance will now be across the web, many website owners are unsure about how to prepare for the change.

Fingerprinting and Plug-ins

Ad measurement and user tracking is also taking place via fingerprinting and plug-ins which add code to a website. This then compiles anonymous data about a user, such as the browser used, browsing history and any web based activity. Again, this carries an impact into personal privacy and inferred information which a user may not comply with. Fingerprinting is also being phased out in the long term by browsers such as Firefox due to its invasive nature.

Using First-Party Cookies

Having an open, honest and transparent cookie policy will still remain an integral part of data trends throughout 2021 as

a) third-party cookies will not be entirely phased out until 2022, and;

b) first-party cookies are still very much in place to ensure better user experience.

Although these cookies are already used for a limited amount of measurement, the introduction of new technologies means using the mapping of subdomains (at scale) would allow for first-party cookies to be analysed and used by ad companies for future targeting and tracking. 

Collaboration

Google Chrome is developing a Privacy Sandbox, an open initiative that allows for tracking of a limited number of third-party cookies whilst also providing and maintaining security of personalised information. This project involves collaboration between many web browsers, Ad tech companies and advertisers to develop the best user experience possible and continuing to allow online advertising to take place in a limited capacity. Many browsers and big companies including Facebook may collaborate to stay ahead of the curve.

Future Modelling

Analytics and future modelling will take place to map out users’ needs to create an effective user experience and to develop new technologies. Although a full picture cannot be seen, future projections and inferred knowledge about end users can be collated to create new forms of measurement. Smart alternatives to targeting including contextual targeting, using information from clients who already have insights about their customers and custom audience experiments may take place.

The laws surrounding website cookies are changing. Find out about the new data trends in 2021 that seek to replace cookie measurement and ad tracking. Click To Tweet

These key developments may have a huge impact on advertising and marketing going forward. As the industry adapts, new trends will replace the use of third-party cookies and a more rigorous use of measuring data will fall into place for effective data analysis.

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