It’s Official: The Beginning of the End of Third-Party Data

Well, the party is over for third-party tracking (a.k.a. cookies). And the first step will take place next month. Read the past, present, and projected future of these developments, and what to be aware of.

Popular to marketers, but problematic to users

For years, third-party tracking was a frequently used method of targeting customers. While this might have been a popular and efficient strategy to marketers, the general population grew increasingly frustrated with having information on their browsing histories collected and sold via snippets of code that were present on numerous websites.

Google took action

User frustration escalated to such a high point that in March 2021, Google took action and announced the discontinuation of third-party tracking. This meant that marketers would need to adapt to the operations of first-party data in order to reach their customers. Some quickly made the change, others dragged their feet—but questions lingered: When will the step to end third-party tracking actually happen? Will this happen in stages or be one fell swoop? Answers emerged.

Changes in January 2024

Since Google’s announcement of this change in 2021, other game changers took center stage in the digital world—specifically, the move from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 (GA4), followed by the artificial intelligence (AI) explosion. But the need to switch from third-party to first-party data did not go away, and news surfaced last month about the progress of this change. Here are two specifics…

1. “Privacy Sandbox”

Google has created the “Privacy Sandbox,” which targets ads, but does not collect any information about users from other websites. As explained in Media Post, the goal of the “Privacy Sandbox” is to gradually eliminate third-party data, while also reducing cross-site tracking on the Internet. True to its name, user privacy will be protected, but online content remains easily accessible. The process to set the transition to “Privacy Sandbox” is named “M120.”

2. “M120”

The launch of “M120” will set Google’s plan in motion to block approximately one percent of third-party data—zeroing in on the Chrome browser as a starting point. Although this move will begin in January, Johann Hofmann, who serves as senior software engineer at Google, states that the transition process will take a considerable amount of time to complete. Additionally, brand or business owners of some sites may not discover they’ve been affected until the transition has happened—despite outreach efforts from Google.

So, this is just the beginning of what will be a long—but definite—process of ending third-party data.

  • There is a time the process will begin: January 2024.
  • There is a software launch to begin the process: M120.

Unlike third-party tracking, first-party data enables brands to build transparent and genuine connections with prospective customers. Based on what a brand has to offer, first-party data will match this to the most appropriate customers. Ultimately, brands and customers will get to “know” each other and develop a foundation which will grow stronger. In short, first-party data is a win-win for brands and customers.

Do you have any other questions about the benefits of first-party data, or, more importantly, how to make the transition? Contact the EGC Group—first—for answers and guidance.