As you probably already know if you’re in the industry, third-party cookies are under fire. Google has already announced that it is moving away from them to a different way of tracking users. Internally, our engineering teams are also at work. Now, two of the industry associations, the Digital Advertising Industry and the IAB are also trying to come up with new methodologies.
Browser publishers, responding to privacy advocates, started the discussion, with browser publisher Mozilla’s announcement that it would begin blocking third-party cookies in Firefox. The industry was disturbed, but actually Microsoft had already announced that it would ship IE10 with Do Not Track as the default. We’ve been saying for a long time that cookies were in jeopardy, but Mozilla’s move was criticized by the ad industry, which relies on them to target consumers.
“Beyond jeopardizing the amount and quality of content available to users, the plan also threatens to immediately diminish the user experience, by breaking services and tools upon which online businesses and users depend,” was the first quote from the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA). But after the initial ruckus, things began to calm down. After all, the world is moving to mobile anyway, and mobile browsers don’t support cookies.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) also responded with veiled hysteria. But seeing the writing on the wall, it has started to look for new ways to track and analyze user data and to create standards allowing users to opt out of tracking. “The industry thrives on the ability to define and identify audiences and target those audiences with specific advertising,” IAB Vice President Steve Sullivan said at first. “We need to be able to do that.”
But Google and Microsoft were already working on alternatives, and Google’s was announced last week.
Privacy groups are not assuaged, however. Privacy researcher Jonathan Mayer told the San Francisco Chronicle that the newer tracking methods could take more control away from the user. “It’s a lot harder to find out if they’ve been tagged, to do something about it in a reliable way, and, depending on what the technique is, to counteract it in a way that doesn’t undermine functionality,” Mayer said.
Here’s what we’re worried about: If Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla are all working on some other way of tracking users, and IAB and DAA also come up with something, how will the implementation of all these different methodologies affect the ad tech industry, much less the ad industry?