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As taking a sip of our morning coffee and holding a chocolate chip cookie in the office, we talked about the changes Google announced on the third-party cookies and the cookie policy back in 2020. . Those changes were supposed to be executed beginning of 2022. The aim was to offer a solution that could provide privacy protection for users. But at the same time – ensure that the businesses would still be able to meet their goals. In mid-2021 Vinay Goel – director of Chrome announced an update to the timeline and we can expect a delay due to some testings.

But what’s wrong with cookies? Are they really that horrible? That’s what we’ll be discussing today. 

Why are there cookies?

Overall, cookies have served marketers and advertisers since 1995. The HTTP cookies were first applied in 1994 by Lou Montulli, whose aim was to help sites sell better by addressing people more personally. Cookies are filled with data from your activity on different websites. They are used by servers to offer you more personal and, let’s say, more convenient website visits by proposing ads that fit your web surfing experience. Basically, they streamline your web experiences.

Do all cookies taste the same?

There are 3 types of cookies and to us as users, they don’t taste the same! Some like first-party cookies seem ok, but third-party cookies are not to our taste! A basic understanding of the difference between the different cookie types may help you keep your privacy at some point. Some cookies seem to be ok for most of us, while others are not to our taste as they feel like intruders to our personal space. Let’s take a look at the differences.

  • Session cookies are used to memorize your online activities. They are temporary cookies but are used so that your browser can offer you a history of closed tabs. 
  • Persistent cookies or called also first-party cookies that work by tracking our online preferences. Those are used to remember your login information, or if you’ve made some changes in the language section or menu, etc.
  • Third-party cookies are the tracking cookies. They are used to collect data and sell it to advertisers. The data they have collected helps advertisers know your habits and provide ads that are relevant to your interests.

How do cookies function?

All in all, cookies are light data files saved created by web servers while we browse on the web. The server creates the data stores it in a cookie upon your connection. Some of the main things they do are keep track of purchases or the number of times a visitor has seen a banner. Something else they do for us is storing our information as we log into a website so that we don’t have to pass through the verification phase every time. Some cookies may follow the user’s activity on other websites by checking the browsing history. It’s also possible that they keep previously entered information in form fields. Meaning they collect personal info such as name, address, payment card numbers, and others. They make sure that unless you browse in an incognito mode, you’re never really unidentified. But in a way, this is really practical. Imagine you have spent hours filling your shopping cart on a website and accidentally you close the tab. Well, thanks to cookies, you’ll be able to continue from where you left it.

In a way, we can relate what cookies do to do the work of a shopkeeper. A shopkeep knows who is visiting the shop, one can identify the clientele. A shopkeeper that keeps track of the offers and reductions we get. Just like cookies that keep track of our activity across the web. 

Are cookies safe?

Cookies are mainly used to operate, evaluate, and improve their services and products by determining their sales, marketing, and advertising effectiveness. Site owners can get a better understanding of performing accounting, auditing, billing, etc. Alongside those, tracking the user’s journey, navigation, and time spent can improve the UI – simplify the path and customize the experience. Cookies are also used to perform data analyses and get better insights from the market, consumer research, and trends. Overall, cookies help to perform data analyses and better understand customers’ journeys, insights from the market, and trends.

Summing things up, we can say it is routine surveillance of our preferences, which is in most cases benign. But the security vulnerabilities may allow cookies’ data to fall into the wrong hands. An attacker may gain access to your data and browsing histories or break into a website that has collected credentials from multiple users.

Why cookies are not to our taste as users?

Uhhh, cookies, I’d rather not. We assume all of us had this voice in the back of our minds as we allow full access to our personal data while entering a random website. It felt a bit like an ID check-up at the airport, but less legit. Anyhow, we trade our browser history, age, location, etc., for scrolling down their website and probably filling in our online carts. The ones who care for their online privacy don’t like being tracked. 

What’s the issue with third-party cookies?

Tracking cookies or third-party cookies serve for monitoring traffic and personalizing the ad experience for every individual by offering us sponsored content that resonates with our interests. But to provide us with personalized ads that are close to our attractions means that someone is following every move we make on the web.

Thanks to tracking cookies, advertisers can build a profile of us and our interest that used to target ads to us. We constantly get suggestions for things that are similar to our interests so that we can buy them. For sure, we’ve all had some ads following us from one site to another until we finally decide to buy those. In addition, to make some purchases, we need to be teased. So when the product pops up several times, we are much more likely to get it. 

So, some cookies can cause more trouble than others. While first-party cookies serve only websites we visit to collect data and don’t share it – we can say they are safer. Third-party cookies, on the other hand, are generated by other web pages, which can be dangerous. Those third-party web pages are linked to ads on the page you are visiting. What this means is that if on a web page you have 5 ads, this can generate 5 cookies. Even without clicking on those ads, the cookies are generated and give data to advertisers who can determine the browsing history of your ID.

Not everyone knows that cookies can be blocked or deleted so that we can regain our privacy and prevent data tracking. But it seems easier to ask web browsers to take those down than educating the mass how to do it. We are linking here Kaspersky’s guide to removing cookies.

What will happen when there are no third-party cookies?

Firefox (2019) and Safari (2017) already blocked third-party cookies by default in order to propose a privacy-preserving internet experience. Something Chrome – the most popular browser out there – keeps struggling with.  

The truth is that eliminating cookies is a threat to all digital advertisers. Still, it will be an even bigger challenge to some. this will put at risk smaller advertising companies that count on precise targeting to deliver results. Those companies don’t have the data like giants like Amazon do to offer to their customers. 

For sure, Google will offer an alternative way to do it. Probably this will put Chrome as a part of the advertising process by offering advertisers segmented groups of people with similar interests. This will be possible thanks to an AI system called  Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC)

Overall, the future of advertisers is uncertain. Many small ad agencies will suffer because of the lack of data. On the other hand, Giants like Amazon will be able to handle the situation thanks to the data they have already collected from their users. This data will probably help them build advertising strategies based on prognoses and validate those along the way.

The real question here should be if those changes to the cookies will encourage the monopoly or small companies will bring up some creative new methods. Thinking outside the box will be something that will help advertisers and marketers find their way to target audiences. And probably focus on first-party cookies strategies. For sure, things will change, challenges are lying ahead, but it’s exciting to see what the future will bring.