What Google’s Privacy Controls and Chrome Changes Mean for Advertisers

At their annual I/O developer conference in May, Google announced two new initiatives for its Chrome browser set to launch later this year. Google’s privacy controls and new cookie requirements previewed at the event are expected to increase user control over their data and prevent fingerprinting without user consent. This is great for consumer privacy, but how will these upcoming changes impact your advertising campaigns?

What’s Changed?

The first initiative tackles cookies and will require website owners to specify which kind of cookie they want to install on a user’s Chrome browser – a first-party single domain cookie (the kind that preserves user logins and settings) or a third-party cookie (which enables websites and advertisers to collect data on user preferences). To be clear, third-party cookies are not going away or getting banned by Google. Websites just have to identify the cookie category moving forward. However, unlike Safari’s recent ITP efforts, Google’s privacy controls are putting users at the helm, including giving users the ability to turn off or delete different types of cookies. In a blog post from Ben Galbraith, director of Chrome product management, and Justin Schuh, director of Chrome engineering, they explain, “This change will enable users to clear all [cross-site] cookies while leaving single domain cookies unaffected, preserving user logins and settings. It will also enable browsers to provide clear information about which sites are setting these cookies so users can make informed choices about how their data is used.” The second initiative addresses fingerprinting, which is a way for websites to collect information about users’ browsers, plugins, devices, and more. Because fingerprinting doesn’t use cookies, websites can access a user’s browser fingerprint without a user’s consent. As part of the preview, Google shared plans to more aggressively restrict these kinds of tracking technologies. While these announcements were made in May with the expectation of rolling out changes by the end of 2019, details surrounding the implementation for Google’s privacy controls have not been made public yet.

What Does This Mean for Advertisers?

While Chrome represents over two-thirds of desktop browser market share and 63% of mobile browser market share globally according to eMarketer, it’s difficult to precisely say how much Google’s changes will impact advertisers until we see how Google plans to promote the new features to consumers. If the capability to turn off cross-site cookies is user-friendly and prominently displayed, it may prompt some consumers to act. However, if the functions are hidden or buried in a settings menu like Chrome’s current functionality to erase all cookies from a user account, then the impact to advertisers will be minimal. Certain ad-supported businesses, like online publications who rely on cookies to learn information about their readers and sell advertising space, may have a hard time adjusting to Google’s privacy controls at first. This puts the onus on businesses to rely more heavily on first-party data and to ensure their compliance with privacy regulations to maintain those strong data sets.

How Is Goodway Responding?

No changes have gone into effect yet, and while this may result in the deletion of some data-tracking cookies, we aren’t expecting a significant impact at Goodway Group. However, our team is working closely with demand, supply and data partners to monitor this news and set up our clients and their campaigns for success throughout 2019. As any digital media buyer will tell you, data on the websites people visit and how they behave on different sites is critical to building a long-term successful campaign. Fortunately, we’re one step ahead to ensure your campaigns stay on track. Moreover, we support steps that the digital ecosystem takes to increase consumer consent and control, knowing these improve the overall online experience and trust between publishers, advertisers and consumers. The industry has been moving away from third-party cookies for some time now, but it takes time to develop a more efficient, privacy-friendly model. Besides Google’s new privacy controls, several other efforts are already underway to move the industry in the right direction, including The Trade Desk’s unified ID solution, The Advertising ID Consortium and the IAB’s DigiTrust ID. Continue to be among the first to hear about what’s trending in the industry and get expert advice on what it means for advertisers. Subscribe to our blog and keep up with the latest topics and changes in programmatic media.