Not all cookies crumble
Google's burning cookies – and the ad industry is up in arms. But if your martech strategy is using the right cookies, your optimisation programs need not suffer.
The digital marketing community has been up in arms after major tech companies, Apple and Google, announced they are dropping cookies. The moves – touted as helping to create a more privacy-friendly internet – are causing concern among advertisers about revenue impacts and what it means for personalisation and optimisation.
But are these changes as bad as they seem? And are personalisation and optimisation really no longer possible? Maybe not.
First, we need to understand the types of cookies this affects, and what we still have to work with. As it happens, there is more than one type of cookie on the internet.
Cookies are currently the most common means of identifying users online, so their browsing experience can be personalised, and advertisers can serve them products and services that suit their profile.
The changes to cookie policies prevent the internet-wide tracking that has attracted criticism from privacy advocates. They relate to "standard cookies,” the ones behind those seemingly innocuous, and even occasionally helpful, ‘like’ and ‘share’ buttons you see on internet sites. The catch with these cookies is that they hide their tracking prowess behind their façade of convenience.
However, the severity of these changes depends on browsers and vendors. Google is moving to block third party but will continue to allow first party cookies with some minor changes to increase their security. Apple has blocked third party cookies for some time and auto-deletes even first party cookies after seven days of inactivity.
Overall, these announcements are bad where standard cookie use is concerned. But there are other valuable tools in an optimisation and personalisation expert’s arsenal: HttpOnly cookies.
The good news is that the HttpOnly cookie is currently not affected by the policy changes being proposed or implemented by browser or vendors to date. This is because it cannot be shared across the web and therefore cannot be used for tracking users’ behaviour across sites.
But what can an HttpOnly cookie do? It allows a website to deliver personalised experiences to each visitor based on their behaviour and/or preferences.
This is an important distinction. Due to the definition by the IETF of RFC6265, HttpOnly cookies assist in preventing the unsolicited sharing of users’ information. At the same time, they allow businesses to speak to you as a person across their digital channels, and they remain functional regardless of longer periods of inactivity between sessions, compared to standard cookies.
With HttpOnly cookies still at our disposal, ethical personalisation by brands is still very much a possibility, even if cross-site profiling is not.
So providing your martech strategy is using the right cookies, your personalisation and optimisation programs need not suffer.
Doesn’t that sound good to you as a person, and as a business?
The marketing and publishing worlds continue to watch with anticipation and unease as the rules of digital marketing are overturned via the recent Apple iOS changes and the impending cookie crumble. As the demand for greater privacy and transparency regarding access and use of personal data grows, after years of normalising tracking consumer behaviour online via apps and the web, the tide is turning. Consumers are now more informed and able to make the choice as to whether they accept these terms, whether the value exchange for use of their data is worth it, and the resounding answer appears to be no. So where does that leave the world of audience targeting?
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