Have you ever noticed how a single search or even thinking about a certain product or service has you seeing related ads on it all day? Don’t you find it weird that the internet knows what you are thinking? Well, that’s not quite it.
Your browser, in essence, knows who you are through your searches and helps you enjoy a more personalized browsing experience when you are on the internet. This has been made possible due to a little innovation called Cookies.
What are cookies?
Cookies are small files that are designed to hold tiny amounts of data specific to a particular client and website, stored on a user’s computer which can be accessed either by the web server or the client computer.
This allows the server to deliver the page targeted to a user, thereby making the browsing experience more particular to the user. Cookies also work in a way that makes the page itself contain some script which holds the data in the cookie, enabling it to carry forward information from one visit to the website to the next and so on.
When is a Cookie created?
Cookies are made when a user visits a website or a new webpage is loaded for the first time on that browser. For instance, when a user agrees to a certain set of conditions on a website or clicks on ‘Submit’ after having provided the website, with say, an email ID or a phone number (which is usually the case on all ‘Contact Us’ pages), the data-handling page responsible for the call-to-action stores the values provided by the user in the form of a cookie.
If the user has chosen to disable cookies then the write-operation will fail, and subsequent sites which rely on the cookie from the said website, will either have to take a default action, or prompt the user to re-enter the information that they will store in another set of cookie(s) on the new website.
Storing the data on the server without using cookies would be a real hassle since it would be difficult to retrieve a particular user’s information without requiring a login on each visit to the website. Sounds like a lot of work doesn’t it? Well, that’s why cookies are so convenient.
As you can tell, for developers and ad agencies, cookies are a great way to carry information from one session on a website to another without having to burden a server with massive amounts of data storage and retrieval with every page visit.
But all of this begs the question – Is your data at stake? Are you being tracked?
Trackers hidden on the vast majority of websites collect as much information about us as possible and try to link that data to our online activities primarily to send us targeted ads. Many PPC marketing agencies or end-to-end digital marketing agencies pay good money for this data.
Data privacy laws are still a work in progress.
Developers at Google are doing their best to secure your personal data. Google announced in January 2020 that they would eliminate 3rd party cookies from Chrome by 2022. The company promised to use those two years to come up with a more private alternative that users, advertisers and Google would be on the same page with and neither party would have to bear any losses, be it in terms of revenue or data privacy.
What are 3rd Party Cookies again?
Online advertising is the primary reason why 3rd party cookies exist. Growth marketing agencies and digital marketing firms need this data as their bread and butter to help drive users down the funnel.
These cookies are created by domains that are not based on the website you’re visiting, thereby making them the 3rd party. These are usually used for purpose of serving you online ads and are placed on a website through adding scripts or tags. A third-party cookie is accessible on any website that loads the 3rd party server’s code.
If you are really concerned about your online privacy you can choose to block any and all 3rd party cookies from collecting your data by following the steps listed under but blocking them can cause the site to break down. Here’s what you can do to block these data-sniffing cookies:
- Open Google Chrome and click on the ‘Customize and Control Google Chrome’ button located on the browser’s top-right corner.
- Once you’re in the Menu, select ‘Settings’.
- Scroll down and click on ‘Cookies and Other Site Data’ under ‘Privacy and Security’.
- To turn off 3rd party cookies in Chrome, select the ‘Block Third-Party Cookies’ option.
- Close the Settings tab and voila!
Chrome will now block all 3rd party cookies on all the websites you visit.
So is there any hope for us in the near future regarding Data Privacy?
Three words – Global Privacy Control.
Global Privacy Control (GPC) was developed by a coalition of publishers, tech companies, browsers and extension developers, and civil rights groups to help consumers easily exercise their “Do Not Sell” rights under CCPA.
GPC will let you opt out of having your data shared or sold from the websites you visit. It has been made available if you want to add it to your browser and if nothing else, the recent launch of the new specification is a great opportunity to check out your browser’s privacy options, and your browser options in general. However only a few browsers and plug-ins have GPC and compliance to GPC is optional. These browsers and extensions include Abine, Brace, Disconnect, DuckDuckGo, OptMeowt, and Privacy Badger.
What steps has Google taken to help with privacy concerns until they deliver on their promise to block all 3rd party cookies?
Google’s Consent Mode
As of now, users have been empowered with Google’s Consent Mode which allows users to adjust how their Google tags work and collect data based on the consent status of the users. People can indicate whether consent has been granted for analytics and ads cookies and Google’s tags will adapt to the user permission settings, utilizing only the cookies for the specified purposes when consent has been given by the user.
Products that support Google’s Consent Mode include:
- Google Ads (including Google Ads Conversion Tracking and Remarketing)
- Google Analytics
- Conversion Linker
In short, if you wish to determine if Consent Mode is doing what it’s supposed to, you need to check three things:
- Tags with built-in consent are fired regardless of consent.
- The Consent Mode default settings are registered in Google Tag Manager, and updated settings are pushed to the dataLayer when consent choices are known.
- No cookies are set prior consent or after an opt-out.
When consent is granted, the associated tags will function normally.
On the other hand, when consent for ads or analytics storage is denied, the associated Google tags deployed via the global site tag or Google Tag Manager will adjust their behavior accordingly so as to not retrieve and store any of the user’s data.
Google Consent Mode is a big step towards building a more sustainable online browsing experience and the controlling the trading of user data where we are slowly phasing out mass personal data collection and marching towards a consent-based system that respects the privacy of each individual user without disrupting the working economy of the internet.