Online Marketing: When the Cookies Crumble
Third parties are the primary targets of "Do-Not-Track" technology. First-party cookies and other permission-based tools may remain largely unaffected, because the consumer has given consent to the first party. So marketers will still be able to accumulate data regarding the activities of their own customers when they visit the website, as long as the marketer has obtained the appropriate levels of consumer consent.
Virtually all digital marketers use a combination of their own customer data with consumer data from other third parties, such as ad networks, site analytic companies, website optimization firms, data providers and others. These are the companies whose third-party cookies are affected.
Moreover, some of these providers use their third-party cookies—delivered to users as they visit multiple websites—to track consumer activity across multiple sites. By doing so, they gain a more holistic and comprehensive view of the user's online interests and activities. This helps marketers deliver more relevant and engaging experiences for consumers, and to run their businesses more efficiently.
Saving the Sweets
Technologies are emerging that can gather anonymized data regarding online activities without cookies. One of the most promising is "statistical IDs," which combines multiple data points from any computer that is online.
These data points include details, such as the browser type being used, the computer's language settings, its IP address and the location of the Internet connection. Taken together, this data helps single out a computer so service providers are still able to gather data necessary for modeling and marketing.
Statistical IDs are not a complete substitute for cookies—there is some loss of fidelity. A cookie is specific to a single browser, and thus a single computer. A statistical ID, depending on the components used to create it, may appear identical across multiple machines. This means statistical IDs can provide more anonymity for the user, which is important to the survival of any audience-targeting technology. What has yet to be fully addressed is the transparency around statistical IDs, and simplicity and persistence for consumers to opt-out of use of this technology. Respectful marketers and their trade organizations are actively working to answer these questions.