Is the End of Cookies Near? How to Navigate ITP and the Consumer Privacy Shift in the Web Browser Wars

 In Data, Data Governance, Privacy Regulation

Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

The latest updates to Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) have arrived, and many digital marketers are wondering how the new limitations on cookies in Safari will affect their data quality and, subsequently, their marketing efforts based on that data. 

Intelligent Tracking Prevention is a term that Apple uses to describe their Safari browser’s privacy restrictions imposed on cookies created via JavaScript or server-side in third-party domains. ITP represents only one prong in Apple’s recent consumer privacy push. As the Wall Street Journal puts it, “Apple has weaponized privacy over the past year, marketing it to combat threats posed by rivals increasingly elbowing into its core iPhone business.”

The introduction and evolution of ITP can impact any company whose customers use the Safari web browser. In the grand scheme of things, the changes to the Intelligent Tracking Prevention in Safari won’t affect all of your Marketing department’s customer data, but Apple’s ability to shift the way consumers view an issue— like privacy— matters. The tracking cookie is one of the many dominoes that is falling as privacy takes center stage for consumers. 

While Apple has taken perhaps the strongest stance against rampant cookie usage, recent reports suggest Google is following Apple’s lead to restrict third-party cookies in Chrome, the most popular web browser. So getting ahead of the changes introduced by ITP, even if it currently only affects a small amount of your traffic (in all likelihood, mobile traffic, since Safari has a much larger mobile presence), will set up your data strategy for success down the line.

Ty Gavin, Tealium’s VP of Software Development, helps you make sense of the latest changes to Apple’s ITP in our most recent on-demand webinar, Is the End of Cookies Near?: What ITP 2.x Is and How to Navigate.”

The first slide of the webinarI will discuss Ty’s webinar later on in this post, but first let’s talk a little more about why it’s important to situate ITP as part of a broader consumer privacy movement— and how companies will need to adopt stricter data governance policies to meet regulators’ and consumers’ expectations.

It has taken some time, but consumers and regulators are finally catching up to the effects of the digital transformation on privacy. The increased attention on the topic is driven in part by high profile data breaches and in part by consumers having a greater understanding of the lengths to which their data is being used and sold online.

Lawmakers across the globe are working to protect the privacy of their constituents by introducing regulations that give consumers more rights to manage the personal data that companies collect and use. The first big shot across the bow for companies came from the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, which at the time was the strictest and most far-reaching set of rules around data use. Since then, stricter legislation like the California Consumer Privacy Act has been passed that also affects your company’s data.

The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) recently released a report framing the overarching challenges consumers face when it comes to managing their privacy with private corporations. According to Research Live,

The ICO highlighted the privacy risk for consumers when they have to choose between giving their consent and having their access to the product or service denied. The ICO said in its submission: “Where the service is very important to the individual or the company in question acts as a de facto monopoly, a question arises over how willingly consent can be given.”

Customer data is the lifeblood for many companies products and service offerings, but in the past consumers were given little choice or leverage over their own personal data collected by companies. The ICO’s concern here is that, in many cases, customers are given a binary choice of sacrificing control of their data or being denied a service.

The ICO’s findings point out a fundamental question for companies who rely on customer data like that provided by tracking cookies, which is how they will balance the customer experience— things like personalization and real-time experiences across channels— with new regulations that require companies to keep data transparent, accessible, and deletable. 

Thus, the changes to Apple’s ITP should play into a broader re-evaluation of your data governance strategy. Cookies are one mechanism through which companies can overreach with their use of customer data and potentially run afoul of new laws or new standards set by companies like Apple and Google.

It also begs the question of whether cookies will remain a staple of the digital marketer’s diet in the future.

So, Is the End of Cookies Near?

I don’t want to give away the answer to this question— you’ll have to watch our on-demand webinar— but needless to say many AdTech companies and digital marketers are sweating Apple’s ITP updates and the trends they portend. 

In the webinar, Ty takes you through: 

  • A Primer on ITP 1.x and 2.x (4:26)

ITP has gone through several iterations, and Ty walks you through its evolution to help you understand Apple’s mindset. 

With ITP 1.x in 2018, Apple introduced machine learning into their Safari web browser to limit or block third-party cookies and other identification methods such as fingerprinting.

In 2019, Apple has pushed the consumer privacy capabilities of Safari even further with ITP 2.x. It began with duration limitations on first-party cookies and third-party iframes, and expanded to further limit certain first-party cookie’s durations.

  • Cookies According to Apple, Google, and Firefox (19:08)

With apologies to Microsoft, Ty walks you through how the three big browsers (Apple’s Safari, Google’s Chrome, and Mozilla’s Firefox) view cookies.

While across the board each company is critical of cookies and their effects on privacy and user experiences, they each take a slightly different stance on how they’re marketing their browser’s cookie-managing capabilities.

  • The Expected Impact of ITP 2.x (27:39)

In the short term, Ty argues that the short-term effects of the latest ITP updates will probably not have a significant impact on analytics data— as long as you stay on top of managing your cookies. Though it won’t have a big impact, it will require you to make some changes to follow Apple’s restrictions and maintain the integrity of your customer data.

  • What’s Next for Marketing and Data Professionals (31:00)

Even if you’ve updated how you approach cookies since ITP 2.2, Ty provides concrete steps which Data, Analytics, and IT teams can take to read post-ITP 2.2 data and implement cookies better. Furthermore, Ty breaks down how CX and Marketing can improve the customer experience at cookies-dependent steps like authentication.

Beyond ITP 2.x, Ty also muses on the future of ITP and how you can start to position your data strategies for longer-term changes to cookies.

For all of Ty’s insights into Intelligent Tracking Prevention from his talk “Is the End of Cookies Near?: What ITP 2.x Is and How to Navigate,” watch the on-demand webinar, and don’t forget to read his most recent posts on the topic on our blog here and here

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