If you’ve been on the internet at any point over the last year you’ve encountered ads, and you may have noticed seeing the same ads all over the place. Ad platforms such as Google Ads typically leverage cookies, which are little bits of code temporarily stored on your machine to identify you across different websites, which, in turn, helps target ads to your interests.
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The repetition of the same ads across a number of websites begs the question, what about when cookies aren't available?
According to Rahul Srinivasan, product manager for ads privacy at Google,
“Using traffic patterns where a third-party cookie is available, and analyzing them at an aggregated level across Google Ad Manager publishers, we can create models to predict traffic patterns when a third-party cookie isn’t present.”
Why this matters
Cookies are starting to become an outdated method of user identification and tracking. They’re not supported on mobile apps, plus brands such as Facebook and Google are starting to transition to identifying signed-in users rather than using cookies.
Apple actually announced in August that the Apple WebKit team implemented measures to prevent tracking techniques that could track data even when not intended — cookies being one. Specifically, they’re going to be limiting types of cookie tracking that could potentially cause “harm” to the user — such as being able to identify a specific user based on their cookie information.
Safari, Apple’s web browser, leverages Intelligent Tracking Prevention (or ITP) to block advertisers' and ad networks' usage of cookies. All in an effort to provide users with the most data privacy possible. ITP goes as far as to purge cookies every seven days to help clean up user data and protect your data privacy. Updates such as this are a step in the right direction — especially in the wake of numerous data fiascos.
It seems that Google is starting to move in that direction as well (albeit slowly) to help manage the number of cookies stored for a given user, which will affect the frequency that ads can be served across websites and platforms.
What it means for you
For now, not much. But in the world of GDPR and privacy concerns, big brands in the web-world are doing everything they can to ensure user privacy is top of mind — even if it’s over-educating the audience on updates that will come to pass.
Google’s forthcoming update to improve tracking when cookies aren’t available does mean two things.
First, it will enable advertisers to still serve you things you may be interested in.
Second, it should help ensure that you’re not being bombarded with the same ads repeatedly as you navigate the web. While staying in front of the audience is potentially great for advertisers, ad-fatigue can be a negative experience for the user.
We’ll keep you updated as more information comes to light!