Almost all websites base their business model on advertising. To advise readers on the right products / services, cookies are used which, among other things, store them information related to user preferences and behavior. This data is often also collected by third-party companies. The dividing line relating to what data companies can collect through this system has been at the center of a heated debate for years now, but it seems that something is finally moving.
In fact, Google recently announced that its Chrome browser will gradually stop using third-party cookies as we know them today. The news has gone almost unnoticed in Italy, but in reality it is an important announcement for the privacy of all web users.
An important choice for privacy
The fact that Google Chrome, one of the most popular browsers in the world, will no longer use third-party cookies as we know them today, presumably by 2022, means that companies will have less and less data on the activities carried out by users on the Web. This will impact the advertisements and free tools that make use of this information, thus generating "havoc" between companies in the sector and going to involve a disproportionate number of people. The reason why it will take at least two years to implement this change is simple: it is necessary to study the transition well and give time to all the companies involved to "digest" Google's decision.
The Californian company does not want to generate too much damage to the realities that base their livelihood on online advertising. The farewell to third-party cookies could lead to less precision in the "choice" of the banners that are offered to users and consequently to a decrease in conversion in terms of sales.
Justin Schuh, Engineering Director of Google Chrome, wrote on the company's official blog: "Once these guidelines have addressed the needs of users, publishers and advertisers[…], we plan to phase out support for third-party cookies in Chrome. […] Our intention is to do it within two years"In short, first you need to find solutions that are sustainable for everyone and then you will think about respecting the roadmap, even if the Californian company seems to be convinced that it can manage to implement this change within 24 months.
Going down more in technical terms, the Google initiative, called Privacy Sandbox, will start from February 2020, starting to request third-party cookies to respect certain characteristics related to user privacy. We will then proceed to limit the use of the well-known "user agent" string, which contains information relating to clients connecting to a website.
A mechanism called Client Hints will then be used, which provides that the portals will still be able to access basic details, without being able to obtain all the current tracking information. Clearly, there will still be details that will be shared, but these will be limited to the bare minimum, since a lot of information will be kept locally by clients.
The Californian company is looking for counteract fingerprinting techniques, or those measures designed to collect the "traces" left by users during their online sessions and "put them together" to reconstruct as accurately as possible interests and habits, information that is usually then used to try to propose targeted advertising to the person involved . It also appears that users will be given more possibilities to manage the data that is shared online.
According to experts, third-party cookies can be used improperly and therefore the choice of Google could really have positive repercussions regarding the privacy of users who surf the Web. On the other hand, we should probably say goodbye to many ads based on our searches. What is certain is that the transition will not be easy for those companies that have based their business on this type of advertising. Publishers, meanwhile, can only watch and wait for more details on what alternative solutions will be proposed, always hoping that Google's promises will be kept and that what happened in 2017 with Apple's Safari will not occur, when a tracer cookie prevention technology had created several headaches in monetizing the visits generated by the browser users of the Cupertino company.
What will happen precisely in practical terms will only tell us the future, for the moment it seems to be configured as a web in which we finally start to put stakes regarding user profiling.