The Facebook Pixel Will Add a First-Party Cookie Option

It will enable advertisers to continue accessing data from Apple’s Safari browser

Apple introduced Intelligent Tracking Prevention in June 2017. Getty Images
Headshot of David Cohen

Facebook is following in the footsteps of Microsoft and Google by introducing a first-party cookie option for the Facebook Pixel that will enable advertisers globally to continue to access data from Apple’s Safari browser. Advertisers will be able to use this data to measure and optimize their campaigns on the social network.

Facebook said advertisers will begin receiving emails Friday alerting them about the new first-party cookie option for the Facebook Pixel, which will go into effect Oct. 24. The social network added that the change will take effect automatically, but advertisers can opt out at any point by going to the Settings tab in Events Manager at the pixel level, under the Measure and Report section of Ads Manager.

Periscope vp of media Jen Brady believes brands in sectors where sensitive information is collected, such as financial and medical, will probably opt out of the new first-party cookie option, but those in areas like entertainment will move forward with it.

On the user side, privacy settings will not change, nor will the controls people have over ads in their Ads Preferences.

Brady was concerned about consumer misconceptions over how their data is going to be used, feeling that many of them would not realize that they had already opted in via the brands they engage with. “I’m not sure if it’s going to slide under the radar or create an issue,” she added.

Facebook also stressed that businesses must still disclose how they use cookies and share data collected via third parties, according to its business tools terms.

The social network described how the Facebook Pixel will work after the change takes effect: When someone clicks on an ad on a Facebook platform, the landing page URL will contain a unique string of code. If any pixels on the site that a user lands on are opted into sharing first-party cookie data with Facebook, the URL parameter will be written into the user’s browser as a first-party cookie. Opted-in advertisers’ pixels will then include the first-party cookie with all events sent to the social network.

The move by Facebook is a counter to Apple’s efforts to keep Safari—the default browser on its computers and mobile devices—free of third-party data capturing.

Apple introduced Intelligent Tracking Prevention in June 2017 as a way to limit third-party trackers from capturing cross-site browsing data from its Safari browser.

Last September, Google developed a new Google Analytics cookie for AdWords, enabling an ITP-compliant method of capturing campaign and conversion data from Safari.

And in January, advertisers on Microsoft’s Bing search engine began seeing alerts in their Bing Ads accounts prompting them to enable auto-tagging of Click ID for accurate conversion tracking in order to enable them to continue tracking ad clicks from Safari.

Finally, at Apple’s WWDC conference in June, CEO Tim Cook said the company would tighten ITP up even more, with third-party cookies going from being stored for 24 hours to not being stored at all, basically rendering them ineffective.

Mozilla announced in August that its Firefox browser would take a similar approach to blocking third-party cookies, and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has put added pressure on Google Chrome and Bing to do so as well.

“We are offering a first-party cookie option for the Facebook Pixel to help businesses continue understanding site activity and ad attribution across browsers,” Facebook corporate communications manager Joe Osborne said in a statement. “This change is in line with updates made by other online platforms, as use of first-party cookies for ads and analytics is becoming the preferred approach by some browsers. The controls people have over ads will not change.” David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.