Why Third-Party Cookies is a Hot Topic

This blog series explores the impact of data privacy regulation and third-party cookie blocking on data tracking techniques for anonymous and authenticated visitors on websites.  The online advertising and marketing industry, that was built on a foundation of data collection, is now being challenged by new restrictions imposed by browsers to limit who and what data can be tracked.  This series takes a look at the new restrictions and how technology vendors are responding with workarounds. The ITP2 blog series will continue throughout the upcoming months and include partner solutions or other custom solutions implemented by Tealium clients.

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The Challenge

Historically, third-party cookies (those typically set by advertisers in their own domains) have been an essential technique for tracking visitor behavior across multiple domains. This is used to measure advertisement impression and click counts, one of the main drivers in understanding the influence of those ads on visitor conversions on your site (purchases, sign-ups, etc.) . Those third-party cookies connect the dots between what a visitor did before coming to your site and what they did after.

Today, those same third-party cookies, that have long been an industry standard, are coming under scrutiny to address on-going privacy concerns. Recent updates to Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP 2.1) on Safari and anti-tracking on Firefox are creating new challenges for brands that rely on on that third-party tracking data to fuel their businesses. Now that Safari browser is not only blocking third-party cookies, but also expiring first-party cookies after 7 days of inactivity, the race is on to come up with creative workarounds..

Current Industry Workarounds

The livelihood of some businesses is at stake here, so tag vendors are finding increasingly complex and creative ways to accomplish what was previously done with third-party cookies. One approach is simply to pass an identifier via a query string parameter from the source domain the destination domain. This requires a bit more work by each domain to coordinate that exchange of data, but it's a relatively straight forward technical solution, especially when vendor's such as Google Analytics offer it as a plugin. Facebook has also taken notice and updated their tag to offer a similar workaround.

Another technique that's shown promise is browser fingerprinting. Marketing vendors are developing patent pending algorithms that create a kind of fingerprint of visitors based on their unique browser information. This anonymous method of identification is a surprisingly good substitute for a third-party cookie and the more ingenious the fingerprint, the more likely it's a unique match to the visitor.

But, of course, the browsers have caught on to these workarounds. Safari has already built-in "fingerprinting defense", a way to spoof browser information to thwart known fingerprinting techniques. It's a game of cat and mouse that won't be ending anytime soon.

In the next part of this series we'll look at more workarounds that are being implemented with iQ Tag Management.

Check back with us soon for the next post in this series. You can also submit your own blog post about ITP2 or other trending industry topics by sending a line to community@tealium.com. 

 

Mar 12, 2019