This month’s debunked blog explores the true reality of ‘privacy’.

The push towards a privacy-first era has, let’s be honest, been more of a slow walk than a race to the finish line. After years of witnessing the (m)adtech industry desperately try to make strides towards creating a safer digital world, there’s a real sense of fatigue throughout. Fatigue surrounding ‘post cookie’ deadlines; fatigue surrounding consent disclaimers; and fatigue surrounding the proclamations of the ‘new marketing age’.

It currently feels like we’re caught in a web of empty promises that reminds me a little of the ‘girl who cried wolf’, where constant misleading’s create wide-spread exhaustion. Despite various headlines stating that ‘privacy is the number one focus for brands’, the reality doesn’t seem to correspond, and we’re at risk of losing the real meaning behind a true ‘privacy-first era’.

Let’s explore how we got here.

Cookie & Consent Fatigue

Over the years, websites have increasingly become focused on asking consumers to ‘accept cookies’. As many of you reading this already know, the ‘opt-in’ process was designed to give users greater control over their data, in exchange for personalized and tailored advertising experiences. Sounds sensible right? But in practice, this has proven to be more of a ‘tick box’ exercise mapped out to ‘keep within the rules’, versus an exercise designed to protect the consumer.

Let’s be honest for a moment – have you ever paused to read the consent form (which can often be pages long) before you hit the ‘yes’ button? Even as industry experts, I am sure we are all guilty of clicking ‘yes’ to simply exit the banner quickly, rather than according to our individual advertising needs or desires.

It isn’t just the fact that consumers are left confused by how their data will be used. It’s that there are so many businesses within the consent string who will inadvertently be able to use their data when they innocently tap ‘accept’. We may be a generation of savvy, clued up consumers, yet, the existing process is so complicated, even an industry expert would be hard pressed to know exactly where their data has landed.

In an article written by Luca Bertuzzi for EURACTIV, he states “The EU Commission considers that many people are tired of these complex cookie banners and just give up on expressing their privacy preferences.”

It seems to me that this method of gaining consent (and therefore trust) has drifted so far away from what it was designed to do.

The Longest Deprecation of the Humble Cookie

As of today, we are set to see the first 1% of Google Chrome users migrate to Privacy Sandbox in the early months of 2024, according to Tech Crunch. Google’s original plan was to deprecate third-party cookies in its browser by Q2 2022, however not too long after the original announcement, Google extended its deadline until the end of 2023. In a blog post, VP of the Privacy Sandbox, Anthony Chavez wrote “The most consistent feedback we’ve received is the need for more time to evaluate and test the new Privacy Sandbox technologies before deprecating third-party cookies in Chrome”.

Whether or not I agree with the constant delays from the tech giant, what I do agree with is the reason behind the deprecation. For far too long the adtech landscape has been underpinned by third-party cookies, that over time, have created a world of ‘grey areas’ when it comes to the protection of user data on the big wide web. Don’t get me wrong, I have used, promoted and worked with third-party cookies for the most part of my career, and it has been the bread and butter of programmatic since its very beginnings. But just because something is commonplace, doesn’t mean it stays relevant forever.

Some businesses feel that Google’s delay has only been to serve its own agenda, creating a new monopoly of control. Yet, many businesses refuse to believe the deprecation will actually happen, and would rather stick to what they know versus make a change for the future.

Once again, it feels like the driving force behind the cookie deprecation, has become lost in translation.

Putting Privacy Firmly on The Map

I believe it’s time to change this mindset. After all, we are – every single person reading this – consumers. Just because we work in this industry, doesn’t give us a free pass to play dirty.

Old ways of working are no longer applicable. Cookies will, whether you like it or not, be a thing of the past in the near future. Rather than ‘wait and see what happens’ why not act now? There is an abundance of incredible cookieless solutions available today, that can help to plug the cookie gap and allow you to reach consumers in the moments that matter to them – all without the use of personal data.

Sounds pretty good right? Get in touch with me today to find out more!

Why not send me a message on my LinkedIn!