How Big Changes to Browser Settings, Cookies, & Privacy Will Affect Campaign Tracking

For years, internet marketing has depended on the cookie to track user behavior.

Soon, that will change. The Google Chrome browsing team has announced that future iterations of the browser will automatically reject third-party cookies by 2022. This dovetails with global trends toward more stringent privacy protections.

Here’s what to know:

How have browser settings changed?

In response to privacy legislation and consumer concerns around the world, browser teams are changing the way their software responds to cookies. In place of a patchwork of user settings and privacy-focused add-ons, browsers are now intercepting third-party cookies or shortening their activity by default. These cookies reside on user devices and interface with multiple domains to enable programmatic advertising and other marketing that draws on users’ past behavior.

What privacy changes are being made?

Various features are forthcoming that align Big Tech with global privacy regimes and place increasing onus on marketers to abide by emerging privacy standards. For example, Google’s new Privacy Sandbox seeks to develop an open set of standards covering existing and rising forms of user behavior tracking. Google has signaled, for example, that it won’t support fingerprinting, which uses subtle differences between devices to generate unique user profiles.

What is happening to cookies?

A growing number of browsers are set to block third-party tracking cookies or terminate them after seven days. This includes Google Chrome, the dominant desktop browser, and Safari, which holds 53% mobile market share. Experts estimate about 80% of browsers will block some or all third-party tracking cookies by late 2021. First-party cookies that manage basic website functions are unaffected.

Possible outcomes of these changes

  • Conversions will not be linked to campaigns if they occur after the cookie termination window
  • Paid advertising channels are likely to under-report their contribution in ongoing campaigns
  • Retargeting across websites may not work in Safari, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge browsers
  • Exact referral paths will be masked, so referral traffic will appear to come from base domains

Marketing analytics are set to become less precise. Key data points marketers rely on will be obscured, requiring enhanced cross-referencing to remain useful. Some data will become unavailable. In the long run, new behavior tracking technology may be needed. Our industrial marketing strategies prepare you for the cookie-less future.

Contact us to learn more.