Our Knowledge

Another big shift for data privacy and user tracking is happening, right now

A major gear change has started in the realm of data privacy that’ll change marketing efforts and customer acquisition as we know it.

Since GDPR was first announced in 2016, customers and business owners have been aware of the need for greater clarity and control on big data, and now the tech giants themselves are weighing in with their own contribution.

The first was Google’s announcement in 2019 to remove third-party cookies. Although Safari and Firefox already made their own moves on the issue, Google Chrome has over 65% market share making for a very different outlook. Their eventual shift to Privacy Sandbox – Google’s privacy initiative, which is still in the making – will undoubtedly cause a seismic shift, hence the term ‘cookiepocalypse’ being newly coined.  

Another big move came in January 2020 when Apple CEO, Tim Cook, made clear the company’s stance on adtech. He warned that adtech’s ‘data complex’ is fuelling the spread of disinformation which profits from mass manipulation, and then in May this year, Apple took tangible action.

In May’s iOS 14.5 update, a new App Tracking Transparency (ATT) feature launched requiring apps to now ask users for permission to track their device and data. Using the feature, results already show that 96% of users are opting out of being tracked further proving that users would rather not share their data so freely.

These moves haven’t been without criticism though. For Google’s Privacy Sandbox, mass complaints by publishers and tech companies prompted the CMA to launch an anti-trust investigation into the tech giant (the first of its kind) and a pre-emptive look into the protection of tech market competition. The complaints highlighted that Google’s phase-out of third-party cookies would be replaced by their own tools for enhanced targeted ads, which could further strengthen their market stronghold.

For Apple’s ATT feature, critics flagged IDFA loopholes but also how Apple views ad-tracking in the first place. From their own development handbook, it’s ‘not considered tracking when the app developer combines information about you or your device for targeted advertising…if the developer is doing so solely on your device and not sending information off’.

Also Facebook, a huge beneficiary of third-party tracking and advertising (99% of its revenue comes from advertising), opposed all the changes. The company stated that its advertising model enables its apps to stay free of charge, and that this service actively helps small businesses to reach more customers.

Whether in favour or not, user tracking, data privacy and adtech regulation is getting tighter. GDPR is being supplemented by the EU’s ePrivacy regulation that’ll soon include all forms of communication from M2M, OTT to IoT and businesses are only to benefit.  

Adtech platforms like Index Exchange and AdForm say the changes will work to enhance marketing efforts and their results. The concentration on first-party led solutions will reinforce people-based, contextual approaches that’ll increase customer trust and engagement without negatives effects on the bottom line. For assurance, The New York Times stopped running behavioural ads in 2019 and found that revenues were unaffected.

So, while the loss of third-party cookies and passive tracking may feel like a marketing blow, these moves address the privacy demand from consumers that will not only protect them but will also mean a return to more relevant, sticky audiences for businesses. Trust and loyalty are back in fashion, and now it’s made a bit easier.

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