In the past few months, pretty much everyone in the advertising world has been going insane about the same issue: Google (and its competitors, and its allies) has been dropping one million bombs on every advertiser’s strategy, ever since they gave their first steps towards their Privacy Sandbox Initiative. So since they first announced that third-party cookies were no longer going to be acceptable, and even going through a lot of content policy updates, to reach the point of launching a new way of collecting users’ data, all in the name of protecting their privacy.
And we were so busy going on and on about how Google was ruining our lives, and making it impossible to launch effective Ad campaigns, that we didn’t even see the iOS update coming, and how it’d affect us. So basically, during the past couple of months we’ve been seeing the big tech giants banning the activity tracking options more and more, and users being happy about it and choosing the “don’t allow to track activity” options. And now, another big guy is joining the advertisers-life-ruining party, and guess who’s that: Mozilla Firefox itself.
Firefox’s new initiative is called Enhanced Cookie Clearing, and guess what it does? Yep, if you are using Firefox Strict Mode, you will now be able to erase every tracker, cookie, and supercookie that was ever installed or embedded in your computer by any website. So basically, now you’ll be able to see which websites that you visited are installing cookies on your computer, and you’ll be able to tell Firefox to simply erase them and forget about them as if they were just another picture to burn. Yes, I meant that. Just like that, the “Enhanced Cookie Clearing” allows you to delete all traces of a website in your browser, preventing the possibility of sneaky third-party cookies sticking around.
In Mozilla’s blog entrance, they include a pretty cool cookie jar metaphor to explain the complications that erasing cookies can mean, and how their new feature fixes that (lucky us!). Basically what happens is that, since cookies aren’t just tracking your activity in the website that they were installed by (for example, if Facebook installs a cookie in your computer, then they can also see what you are doing on other websites), there happens to exist a huge tangling of cookies and everyone can track everything, just as if all the cookies were in the same cookie jar. However, their new update will divide these cookies into separate cookie jars, meaning each site will only be able to track your activity on its own site. Before, if you erased one site’s cookies, you could still be tracked by other third-party cookies that had been following you since they were first installed. Now, you’ll be able to erase any tracking or memory that you ever were on a website just by erasing its exclusive cookies. So any cookie embedded in a site, no matter where it comes from, will be now part of that site’s cookie jar and will be deleted if you want to delete your trace in it.
So what do all these mean? Well, for users that, if they actually choose to enable (which they probably won’t at first, but come around to eventually) the Strict Tracking Protection, then their activity data will be actually for their knowledge and their knowledge only. However, this will happen while damaging the ad campaigns that many publishers have put their time and money into. Why? Easy, if no one will say where they have been and what they are interested in, then who are you planning on targeting your ads to? Exactly, you can’t know, and your campaigns can’t be proved to be effective.
Not to get all conspira-noic (is that a word?), but doesn’t it seem weird that ever since Google started saying “go privacy!”, other tech giants followed their steps without hesitation? Google went in and banned third-party cookies, but still allowed theirs because they are the experts at keeping us safe, and of course, it had nothing to do with the intentions to keep Google Ads as the big #1 in Ads tech, right? But then iOS and Mozilla decided to ban cookies as well, and not even prioritize theirs (even though Mozilla does say in their announcement that they safely install cookies to help users). So what’s in there for them?
We all know that Google pays a lot (a lot!) of money to Firefox so they use Google as their predetermined browser, but what if there’s more than that? We all know that everyone would use Google search no matter who Firefox chose to be their default browser, so why pay that much money for something you already have? Does there exist the possibility that maybe it’s all a power play? Might Google be paying Mozilla just so that they can control them? Well, of course, these are all just conjectures of someone upset by Firefox’s new update and its effects on the advertising campaigns they are running at the moment, but who’s an authority to say this theory isn’t even worth digging in a little deeper?
But today won’t be the day that we actually do dig in a little deeper. To conclude, the reality is we can’t be so sure about Mozilla’s real motivations behind letting users choose whether they want to be tracked or not. But we can definitely be sure that, as privacy keeps being the priority, advertisers worldwide will definitely have to get creative and find new ways to make effective ad campaigns. As for me, every day I’m a bit more resigned to Google’s (Oh sorry! Meant to say Mozilla’s!) crazy updates, and all these cookie jar conversations got me hungry.