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EMAILED ON January 16, 2020 BY Conor Grant

The (tracking) cookie crumbled. What will advertisers bake up next?

Google announced plans to phase out 3rd-party tracking cookies, becoming the last big browser to do so.

It’s the end of an era for cookie-based consumer tracking — and the start of a new era for user tracking that’s even more sophisticated.

  • Refresher: Cookies = bits of code in websites that advertisers use to retarget consumers 

Cookies came out in the mid-’90s… 

And for 20+ years, they were the go-to way for advertisers to track people online. 3rd-party cookie monsters like Criteo soared to multibillion-dollar valuations by developing retargeting tech.

But privacy issues became more important (and better known) to consumers, and companies made moves to block 3rd-party cookies: 

  • Apple’s Safari has Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP)
  • Mozilla’s Firefox has Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP)

And now that Google’s Chrome jumped off the bandwagon, 3rd-party cookies are basically burnt for good.

So, does that mean advertisers won’t track me anymore?!?!

NO — it just means advertisers will keep tabs on you in other ways.

1st-party tracking is the new name of the game. 

And giants like Amazon, Facebook, and Google, with their oodles of user data, will have even more power. 

Some tracking methods we’ll see in the post-cookie world:

  • AI-powered guesswork (more formally known as probabilistic tracking). 
    • Example: Artificial-intelligence models that combine anonymized info (users’ browsing habits or keystroke signatures) to create unique profiles and track them across devices
  • User-provided info (also called deterministic tracking). 
    • Example: Companies that use network-connected devices (Alexa-enabled toilets, etc.) and sign-on IDs (“login with Facebook”) to create targetable profiles

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