Google Announces It Will Cease Tracking Users Across the Web

by Danielle Rice and Austin Nichols

Google has previously announced its intent to cease using third-party cookies. Yesterday, Wednesday, March 3 they went a step further, announcing their intent to phase out third-party tracking of users’ web behaviors altogether.

“Today, we’re making explicit that once third-party cookies are phased out, we will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will we use them in our products,” wrote David Temkin, Director of Ads Privacy and Trust at Google.

Temkin goes on to say that Google recognizes that other advertisers – like programmatic display trade desks – will continue to offer tracking capabilities that surpass Google’s, but that these advertisers will be slow to respond to regulatory action and consumer privacy expectations.

Google is instead touting a new technology to promise relevant advertising without invading the privacy of the individual. The so-named Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) is a form of aggregation and anonymization that clusters large groups of people with similar interests. FLoC promises to hide individuals “in the crowd” and uses on-device processing to keep a person’s browser history private.

So, what does this mean for you? Google has shared its intent to deprecate support for cookies in its Chrome browser by 2022, so this change is coming in the near future. This draws the future of retargeting audiences and conversion tracking into question.

In the short-term, this makes alternative display and video partners more appealing for their continued support of tracking through cookies on other prominent browsers. In the long-term, if Google accurately foretells the death of the cookie, other browsers will likely follow Chrome’s lead to invalidate cookies. This leaves a monumental question mark over the future of digital advertising and tracking across all platforms in the coming years. It will also increase reliance on quality first-party data, which Google says it will continue to support.

With the uncertainty of online tracking looming, our data science department continues to press for new ways to identify relevant audiences in a way that respects their privacy. We’re primarily doing this in two ways: leveraging first-party data and audience modeling similar to FLoC.

To track a user’s journey, we leverage platforms that use cookieless tracking. Cookieless tracking uses first-party cookies, local storage, and third-party cookies/branded first-party cookies for data redundancy and resilience. If any one item expires, is deleted, or is unavailable for use due to user preference, the other items will be used.

Additionally, through data modeling, we can derive custom-modeled digital audiences based on the desired intent of the campaign. The custom digital audiences are constructed evaluating the most predictive signals and characteristics of U.S. consumers using your profile universe or defined attributes, while not personally identifying a specific user until they have taken a direction action to engage with your organization.

The social media dilemma is quickly turning into a data dilemma as tech giants make changes to provide relevant content to the user while respecting their privacy. As always, Dunham+Company will keep you informed of how these changes impact you. Two takeaways from today’s update: diversify your advertising platforms and make sure your data collection and deletion processes are clear.


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