Editor’s note: Eric A. Bruce leads digital strategy at research firm Acxiom, Everett, Wash. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared under the title, “No, the sky is not falling, but get serious about first-party data.”
You have likely heard about Google’s announcement at the May I/O conference about impending changes to the Chrome Internet browser aimed at blocking and clearing third-party cookies, preventing digital fingerprinting and providing more transparency into what Web sites track about users. Google Chrome commands an overwhelming proportion of Internet browser usage, so this news is significant. Similar settings are in the works for Firefox, Internet Explorer and Microsoft’s new Edge browser. Companies in the advertising tech, marketing tech and publishing space are already hard at work evaluating what it all means for their platforms and advertising strategies and tactics.
What makes this latest development so significant is how Google is approaching the problem. Right now, first- and third-party cookies are basically indistinguishable to a Web browser. But Google will soon force developers to use an attribute in the page code called SameSite with cookies to determine if they can be used only on that Web site (first-party) or also used by other sites (third-party). Instead of merely putting new protections in the hands of consumers, publishers must declare utility for their cookies in the code itself.
Cookies are small files with bits of information a Web site stores on your machine about your browsing history. Almost every Web site you visit serves cookies. In fact, the Internet wouldn’t work very well without them. Therefore, Google isn’t blocking all cookies outright. It can’t. But Chrome can make it easier to categorize which cookies are for on-site, brand purposes and which are being used to track behavior across the Web.
For example, when you log into a s...