Third-party cookies are set to be blocked on Google Chrome browsers from mid-2024
*Updated 30th January 2024
The cookie crumbles! Prepare for third-party cookie changes in 2024 with our complete guide on everything you need to know about Google Chrome’s ‘Privacy Sandbox’ project.
We start by explaining what cookies are, why they are used on web pages, the different types of cookies (sorry, not of the edible kind unfortunately!), and how you can implement a strategy to overcome the cookie changes in 2024 – read on to find out more…
What are cookies?
We’ve all heard of internet ‘cookies’ but do you know their purpose and why they are used? Let’s begin by explaining exactly what cookies are:
Cookies – called ‘internet cookies’ – are small pieces of data presented as text files that serve as online trackers. Their purpose is to identify the computer you’re using online as part of a wider network and follow your behaviour online to understand more about you. Think of cookies like a username and password; the data they hold is an identifiable source that links back to your computer or online device.
Why are cookies used on web pages?
Ultimately, internet cookies (also known as HTTP cookies) are used to improve a person’s online experience when browsing the web. They do this by storing information about the websites and web pages you visit, and remembering your preferences. If there’s a website you visit regularly, cookie tracker settings will make it easier and quicker for you to access the site, as well as enhance its functions to make it more useful to you.
What’s the difference between first-party and third-party cookies?
You are probably familiar with first-party or third-party cookies, which we explain more about below…
What are first-party cookies?
First-party cookies are essential cookies that track your behaviour on a single website domain and are stored during this visit. Their function is to help provide a better user experience when browsing the site and are directly sourced from the domain you are visiting.
What are third-party cookies?
By contrast, third-party cookies are non-essential cookies that can track user behaviour across multiple website domains and devices (which is why they are also known as ‘cross-site’ cookies). This is because they can access other ‘third-party’ elements on a website, such as pop-up ads or promotional images, and embedded items like videos and maps. As such, third-party cookies are created by domains outside of the website you are currently visiting.
Should you accept cookies?
So the big question here is, should you accept cookies? Well, it’s all down to personal preference really. What’s important to understand is that nothing bad will happen to your computer if you do or don’t accept internet cookies.
Whether you should accept them or not is up for debate, as ultimately you are giving permission to that website (or in the case of third-party cookies – multiple websites) to track your data and preferences. We’d recommend that you always be wary; many antivirus software companies suggest that users decline third-party cookies and only accept first-party cookies if it is a trusted website.
What happens when you accept cookies?
When you accept internet cookies from a particular website, you are consenting for them to store your information and use it in the future. When GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) was enforced back in 2018, websites were from that point onwards required by law to display a pop-up or banner of consent when users land on the site.
Acceptance of cookies allows website owners to track and gather information on how and when they use the website, which then sends the data back in a bid to improve your user experience for future visits. This form of ID system means that the website will recognise your computer or device the next time you log on, with the aim of providing you with a more personalised experience.
Recognising your credentials is another cookie perk, so you won’t be expected to enter them again during the next session.
What happens if you don’t accept cookies?
If you choose not to accept cookies, that’s absolutely fine – you won’t be penalised in any way. The main issue you may find is that if you are to revisit a particular website again, you will need to enter certain details again. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that some websites may not let you carry on past the landing page without consenting to cookies first.
What data do cookies collect?
Depending on the type of internet cookie in place, there are a number of information points that website owners may wish to collect from you. These include (but aren’t limited to):
- Browsing history
- IP address
- Links clicked
- Number of visits
- Pages viewed
- Personal data
- Session duration
- Shopping activity
What are the different types of internet cookies?
Within the realms of first-party and third-party internet cookies, there are a number of different types to be aware of. These are the main 8 types of internet cookies you need to know about:
- Advertising cookies – also known as ‘marketing’ cookies as they allow advertisers to target users by utilising the information to understand their behaviour and present remarketing opportunities
- Flash cookies – also known as ‘super cookies’ that can run independently of a web browser by being stored on a user’s computer instead
- Necessary cookies – also known as ‘strictly’ necessary cookies in which a website wouldn’t be able to function properly without them (they do not track any personal data)
- Permanent cookies – also known as ‘persistent’ cookies that are still gathering data once the web browser has been closed
- Preference cookies – designed as a ‘memory’ cookie to remember any preferred choices a user makes when navigating through a website
- Session cookies – also known as ‘temporary’ cookies used to track a user’s journey when navigating the website
- Statistic cookies – also known as ‘performance’ cookies or ‘analytics’ cookies because they collect information about how a user interacts with a website to better understand the journey
- Zombie cookies – the ultimate persistent cookie that can be recreated even once a user has deleted and cleared all of their cookies – hence the name!
What is the current UK law on cookies in 2023?
It may sound like something out of Sesame Street (what a throwback!) but ‘The Cookie Law’ is an actual thing and requires website owners to gather consent from its users prior to accessing and storing their information. This gives the user the right to either ‘opt in’ or ‘opt out’ of the needed cookie permissions.
What is Google proposing for cookies in 2024?
What can we expect to happen to internet cookies in 2024? One thing’s for sure, there is a big change on the horizon that will affect every single website – and you won’t be able to avoid it if you wish to remain on the right side of the law where Google is concerned…
Announced by Google Chrome in 2020, the search engine and internet giant will be phasing out its support for controversial third-party cookies – effectively blocking them from browsers. In their place, Google has proposed a new type of functional cookie that incorporates specially designed in-built APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to support and protect the privacy of users.
This change will start being rolled out part-way through 2024 and it is expected that by the end of 2024, third-party cookies will have been entirely removed from browsers altogether. Chrome’s competitor browser, Firefox, has also announced it is taking similar measures.
January 2024 cookie changes update
As Google Chrome continues its gradual rollout of third-party cookie restrictions, the browser has reached another milestone.
As of January 4th, 2024, Chrome has enabled restrictions by default for 1% of its users globally, limiting access to third-party cookies in these browsers. This initial 1% test is critical for evaluating the real-world impacts at a small scale before expanding to 100% of Chrome users between July and December 2024.
With almost one year to go until the complete phase-out, website developers, advertisers, publishers and other businesses relying on cookie tracking still have time, but must accelerate efforts to prepare for a future without third-party cookies in the world’s most popular browser.
As the cookie countdown clock ticks away in 2024, we will see increased adoption of Google’s proposed Privacy Sandbox technologies designed to balance privacy and functionality in a post-cookie landscape.
Why does Google want to phase out third-party cookies?
Known as the project ‘Privacy Sandbox’, Google’s phase-out of third-party cookies is largely due to giving users more choice over privacy. The implementation of Privacy Sandbox is also designed to allow users more influence about how and when their data is stored and used when browsing.
APIs will monitor behaviour in the place of ‘cross-site’ third-party cookies, to check their privacy standards, detect cases of fraud, and keep an eye on advertising companies that they are compliant. From a marketing point of view, the relevance of ads presented to users will be tracked to check they are customised to the target audience. It’s all about protecting the user journey for a more seamless and less intrusive online experience.
What will happen to first-party cookies?
For the time being, first-party cookies will be unaffected by the crumbling of third-party cookies. This is because first-party internet cookies are a necessity right now, that is, until in the future a new system is developed that could eradicate website cookies altogether.
How to prepare for 2024 cookie changes
It may be that your website relies on third-party cookies for marketing and advertising purposes, so you’re set to be greatly affected by the Google Chrome browser change. But do not panic, there are ways in which you can strategise to soften the biscuit blow…
Prepare to be cookieless! Here are a few things you need to know and how you can overcome the phase-out of third-party cookies:
- First-party cookies will still need consent by law – ensure this is in place and that a pop-up or banner message is visible when users log onto your website for the first time
- Find out what (if any) third-party cookies your website currently uses
- Adapt your website to automatically block third-party cookies from 2024
- Strengthen your first-party cookie strategy
- Understand how the likes of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) can fill the void left by a third-party cookie empty barrel
- Rumour is that Google Chrome’s new APIs could be topic-based to match users with relevant ad campaigns which may still allow your remarketing campaigns to run
- Online device ad auctions may be introduced which website owners will be ale to utilise
How to control customer data without third-party cookies
Over three billion people across the world choose to use Chrome as their default browser, which is a huge portion of the market share. Assuming your website won’t be affected by the removal of third-party cookies is pretty naive – but you can prepare for this change!
Already being dubbed as the ‘cookiepocalypse’ – personally, we prefer our own term of ‘the cookie crumbles’ (good, right?!) – those in charge of digital marketing and advertising campaigns will need to rethink their strategies ready for the mid-2024 cookies changes. So how can this be achieved? We’ve shared a few ideas to get you started:
- Gather the data from first-party cookies instead as you’ll still be able to collect this via the likes of newsletters and email sign-up forms – anything that’s a direct method of communication. Remember, that with first-party cookie data – you own that information – plus it’s way more accurate than third-party data is anyway!
- Utilise Google Analytics 4 (GA4) to the best of its ability in order to access information about the type of people that are visiting your website, as well as their behaviour patterns. Upgrading from the free version will allow you more access to details and will support both website and app-based tracking too.
- Expand your digital marketing offering by sending out e-newsletters and online surveys if you’re not already doing so, as this is a great way of collecting customer data.
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