Google to Kill Third-Party Cookies — Publishers, Advertisers Win?

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Publishers and advertisers can benefit the most from Google doing away with third-party cookies — if they work it right. First-party data will be like gold within two years, when Google phases out third-party cookies on Chrome.

“If entities with audiences are smart and willing to work together with their first-party data, they’ll finally be able to mount a defense against the triopoly (Facebook, Google, and Amazon) and own their own destinies,” says Matt Keiser, founder and CEO of LiveIntent.

The head of the “people-based email marketing technology platform” sent his thoughts to Target Marketing on Jan. 14, the same day Justin Schuh — the director of Chrome Engineering — posted on the Chromium Blog “Building a More Private Web: A Path Towards Making Third-Party Cookies Obsolete.”

Skeptics of this move by Google may think Google is the only entity to benefit from letting cookies crumble, as it reinforces the belief that Google is turning its platforms into walled gardens. Pay Google to enter.

However, Keiser opines:

“The agencies and adtech providers and those who have been mastering third-party data will lose their privileged position in this new world. You used to have the power — if you sat across many publishers and brands, like an agency or an adtech provider. But now, it’s the first-party data owner who chooses whether to share. If they choose not to and don’t work together, Google, Facebook, and Amazon will win. The sandbox runoff will rearrange the deck chairs that adtech providers and agencies sit on.”

Schuh explains that Google announced the “Privacy Sandbox” in August, which included a bunch of web privacy efforts, and that the Jan. 14 announcement is meant to build on that initiative.

Schuh says on Jan. 14:

“After initial dialogue with the web community, we are confident that with continued iteration and feedback, privacy-preserving and open-standard mechanisms like the Privacy Sandbox can sustain a healthy, ad-supported web in a way that will render third-party cookies obsolete. Once these approaches have addressed the needs of users, publishers, and advertisers, and we have developed the tools to mitigate workarounds, we plan to phase out support for third-party cookies in Chrome. Our intention is to do this within two years.”

Google wants to maintain an ad-supported web that respects consumer privacy, because consumers are blocking ads due to their privacy concerns, he writes. Those same consumers know that some advertisers are using “covert tracking” and, Schuh says, Google is “launching new anti-fingerprinting measures to discourage these kinds of deceptive and intrusive techniques, and we hope to launch these measures later this year.”

As for an ad-supported web, Keiser notes that most of Google’s revenue comes from its search engine and YouTube.

Adam Solomon — CMO at Lotame, an advertising data solutions provider — tells Target Marketing that he’s hopeful that Google will live up to its word of providing a level playing field for first-party data holders, and not just for itself.

Solomon says:

“As an independent data solutions provider, we want to work with everyone, and we do work with everyone. As long as Google is committed to open collaboration, we’re more than happy to participate and help our marketer, brand, and agency clients navigate this path. Over the last 13 years, we’ve had a front-row seat to and participated in seismic changes to how data is collected, connected, and permissioned across devices and platforms. We’ve adjusted at every turn and enabled new data-driven capabilities on behalf of our clients. This situation is no different.”

Schuh says Google will listen to stakeholders concerned about this change.

“We encourage you to give feedback on the web standards community proposals via GitHub and make sure they address your needs. And if they don’t, file issues through GitHub or email the W3C group. If you rely on the web for your business, please ensure your technology vendors engage in this process and share your feedback with the trade groups that represent your interests.”

In the meantime, Google will start implementing cookie changes next month. Calling tracking without a SameSite label as first-party only “insecure,” Keiser writes that Google will “require cookies labeled for third-party use to be accessed over HTTPS. This will make third-party cookies more secure and give users more precise browser cookie controls.”

Heather Fletcher is a freelance reporter for Adweek. She covers performance and direct marketing.