New Browser Privacy Updates Will Affect How You Track Users

Back in 2017, Google’s Chrome and Apple’s Safari web browsers baked ad blockers into their browsers and forever changed how we see websites. Other changes like preventing auto-played videos and pop-up ads were also put into place. The idea was to keep people from resorting to ad blocking software and therefore keep ad revenue safe.

Questionable ad practices were the forefather of today’s hot topic for the major web browsers: browser privacy updates. Scandals like Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica fiasco brought data privacy into the public domain and led to the enactment of strict state-level laws. Now, tech giants are getting on board, dropping third-party data and seeking to reassure the public – which could be bad news for marketers.

New Privacy Laws

Federal data privacy laws in the US are a patchwork of legislation, much of which is considered outdated at this point. While federal laws are caught in a standstill of conflicting interests, states have stepped in to enact their own legislation.

Several major privacy laws went into effect in 2020, including the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and New York’s SHIELD Act. Effective in 2023, the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) will enact even stricter privacy laws. Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts have also recently passed legislation.

Data privacy is the new hot topic, and tech companies are listening. The latest browser privacy updates give users more control over their data than ever before – and it will impact your digital marketing.

Chrome Privacy Updates

Google’s algorithm updates always transform marketing strategy, and its Chrome browser privacy updates are no different. Chrome has long been considered one of the worst browsers for data privacy, but the latest changes aim to fix that perception.

The Chrome update increases the privacy of its incognito mode, although it will never be completely private. It also allows third parties to collect less information about users via cookies and allows users to more easily delete browsing and cookie history. Google also recently announced it would stop cross-site tracking of users and plans to completely eliminate third-party cookies by 2022.

Safari Privacy Updates

Apple’s Safari web browser is the most popular among iPhone users. Considering that 47% of all US smartphone users have an iPhone – or about 113 million people – marketers are wise to pay attention to Safari privacy updates.

Safari’s browser privacy updates go one step further than Chrome, allowing users to block all third-party cookies as well as get a “Privacy Report” on what is being tracked and by whom. It also turns on the Intelligent Tracking Prevention feature by default, automatically blocking cross-site tracking on Safari.

How Browser Privacy Updates Affect Marketing

Taken together, these updates are being called “the death of cookies” by many in the marketing industry. By choking the bid stream of usable data, the lack of third-party cookies could transform the entire digital media system. Here’s how it may affect your marketing campaigns:

  • Unclear campaign tracking: With the new updates, cookies will be deleted in 7 days if a user doesn’t revisit your website. That means if they revisit after 7 days, they’ll be counted as a new visitor, rather than being linked back to the original campaign they came from.
  • Inaccurate audience segmentation: When browsers are automatically deleting “tags” that identify a user as belonging to a certain group, the accuracy of audience segmentation will suffer.
  • Broken retargeting: Retargeting relies almost entirely on third-party cookies. You’ll want to keep a close eye on your retargeting campaigns and consider alternatives.

Solutions to the Latest Browser Privacy Updates

What if you didn’t need third-party cookies at all to run your marketing campaigns? Here’s what you could do instead:

First-party customer data: Many organizations are surprised how much data they can come up with on their own. Call centers, mobile apps, email, and social media could all be hiding valuable data.
Contextual targeting: The way ads used to be. Instead of being based on a behavior profile, the ads users see are based on the content they’re looking at. Simple.
Real-time behavioral data: Rather than tracking users or gathering their data, combine first-party data with real-time customer targeting to meet customers where they are on the web.

Considering that Google makes a large chunk of its money on advertising and data, it’s no surprise they’re also testing out a couple of solutions to the third-party cookie problem, including:

  • Federated Cohort Learning (FLoC), which hides individual users but allows for grouping by characteristics
  • FLEDGE looks to replace remarketing using a system that makes ad auction decisions in the browser itself, limiting the data that flows to bidstreams

Bottom line: If you run marketing or remarketing campaigns, site testing and optimization efforts, or use personalization on your website, the latest browser privacy updates could affect you.