Cookieless Future: What website operators need to know

Three cookies lying on a cell phone next to a keyboard

“Cookieless Future”: What does that mean?

Cookieless Future is a term that refers to the limited use of cookies on websites. This does not necessarily apply to all cookies, but in particular to third-party cookies.

If you have never used cookies yourself, you will find a brief explanation here. Cookies are small files that are stored on the user’s computer when surfing a website. They are only used (with consent) to store information such as the user’s login details or their browsing history so that the website can provide the user with a more customized user experience. There are more than two types of cookies, but for convenience, today let’s talk about the two most common. On the one hand, there are first-party cookies that are set by the website operator, and on the other hand, there are third-party cookies that are set by other companies (e.g. advertisers).

The role of cookies in online advertising

Cookies play an important role in the world of digital advertising, as they provide advertisers with a large amount of important data that enables them to offer users more relevant and effective advertising.

However, this led to some criticism and doubts regarding privacy. Critics argue that these cookies encourage “surveillance capitalism,” which seeks to collect user data for profit. Because, in most cases, users are being tracked without their knowledge or consent.

For this reason, Google has announced that it will no longer use third-party cookies from 2024. The company would look for new technologies and approaches that can help protect user privacy while empowering advertisers to serve relevant ads. For this reason, Google is currently developing various data protection technologies known under the term “Privacy Sandbox” . This sandbox uses technologies like machine learning to sort people into larger, anonymous categories based on their interests. This allows advertisers to continue showing users ads relevant to their interests while maintaining user anonymity.

The next step is more of a technical nature, if you want you can skip it and go straight to How should website owners and marketers deal with this situation .

So how does the Privacy Sandbox work?

  1. Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC): Instead of using cookies to track user behavior, the Privacy Sandbox uses FLoC. It’s a new system that divides users into groups with similar interests. Advertisers can then target these groups instead of individuals.
  2. TURTLEDOVE: TURTLEDOVE (Two Uncorrelated Requests, Then Locally-Executed Decision On Victory) allows websites to display personalized advertisements without tracking user behavior across the web. In this case, the browser makes the advertising-related decisions locally and the user data remains private.
  3. First Party Sets: First party sets form a network of websites so that they can exchange data with each other. This collaboration helps all stakeholders to deliver personalized content and advertising while protecting user privacy.
  4. Trust tokens: With trust tokens, browsers can prove to a website that the user is “real” without having to pass on their identity. This prevents bots or other automated systems from manipulating the system.

What this means for website owners

So will consent disappear? A clear no! You will still need to obtain explicit consent from your users as long as privacy regulations exist.

But you may have to adapt to new technologies. Once Chrome removes third-party cookies, website owners will have to find new ways to reach their audience and measure the success of their advertising. This may mean using new tracking technologies or finding new approaches to online advertising.

How should website operators and marketing managers deal with this situation?

Here are some steps website owners can take to prepare for the cookieless future:

  • Create relevant and quality content: As contextual targeting is becoming more and more common, make sure your content is well tailored to your audience. Contextual targeting is a strategy in which Google analyzes the content of a website and serves ads based on the content of the page.
  • Implement alternative tracking methods: Google, for example, is working on a new technology called Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), which groups users with similar surfing behavior into cohorts for ad targeting.
  • Understand first-party data: Collect and use first-party data, such as through newsletter subscriptions, user accounts, and social media activity.
  • Use a consent management platform: While third-party cookies will soon be a thing of the past, privacy regulations like the GDPR and CPRA still require user consent through first-party cookies before their personal information is collected.

A CMP can help your website manage its cookies and comply with this privacy policy even when using alternative tracking methods. A CMP is required, especially if you are prioritizing your first-party data.

  • Build trust: You should not only show your users that you comply with the latest data protection regulations, but also that you make their privacy a priority by giving them more control over their personal data. For this reason it is important that you provide a clear and unambiguous declaration of consent and information on how you will process their personal data.

In a future without cookies, a flexible and powerful CMP will be an important tool for managing user consent and collecting data. Test consentmanager CMP now for free.

Prepare now

It may be up to next year before Google makes a decision on the possible elimination of third-party cookies. However, website operators and those responsible for marketing can start preparing now.
Take the initiative now! Make sure you’re already compliant and ready when the new changes come into effect. Our CMP is always up to date on new and upcoming legislative changes from around the world. Check the GDPR compliance of your website for free: just click here to get started.