A new opportunity for identity following the demise of third-party cookies

A new opportunity for identity following the demise of third-party cookies
Stuart Colman
Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Third-party cookies have been the force powering digital marketing knowledge and targeting on the internet for over two decades, with hundreds often being dropped on users within seconds of landing on a website.

But technological and regulatory changes are combining to lessen their dominance. Increasing use of smart cookie-blocking technology such as Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention and Firefox’s Enhanced Tracking Protection - now rolled out to all new users by default - combined with warnings from the ICO that companies cannot rely on implied consent for cookie use under GDPR, is fast consigning them to the internet dustbin.

However, brands and publishers still have an acute need to understand and maximise data on user behaviour that they are used to third-party cookies providing. The challenge, then, becomes how to do that in a legally compliant way, while monitoring consent and also being seen to treat user data in the right way.

Some companies have opted for a bandaid solution – exploring Unified ID (UID) solutions, which replicate the centralising benefits of a third-party cookie, within a first-party ‘envelope’. Combined with other workarounds including edge computing and local storage, these effectively become proxies for third-party cookies and seem more compliant on the surface. However, they do not solve the underlying issues because they are still centralised and by resolving to a third-party environment, they are not as restricted as a first-party cookie.

Another more effective option is to learn lessons from the data giants of Facebook and Google, which both stand head and shoulders above other companies in terms of user behaviour knowledge because of the vastness of their identity graphs. Neither has particularly deep nor accurate data about every individual, but they know their users across multiple devices, complete with real identifiers such as phone numbers and email addresses, which allows them to easily tie information together. This people-based approach offers an ease of targeting which makes them very appealing for brands trying to reach a specific audience, compared to working with the richer but more fragmented datasets held by individual publishers.

Companies outside this walled garden are still able to compete, but they need to create an ecosystem of data connectivity based on identifiers to do so. Replicating what Google and Facebook do in a legally compliant way means that differentiation then becomes solely about products and services offered, which levels the playing field dramatically.

Creating a data connectivity ecosystem is exactly what InfoSum does for its users. We create a virtual identity graph by stitching together identifiers derived from existing personally identifiable information (PII), rather than creating a new one, allowing businesses to bring their various identity data together without any privacy or compliance risks. InfoSum is able to connect without sharing because data uploaded to our Unified Data Platform doesn’t move or leave the control of its owner - a mathematical representation is created which allows analysis. This approach enables users to respect and manage privacy with confidence while gaining powerful insights, as well as building trust by removing the need for it because nothing is actually handed over.

Additionally, publishers and brands can – and should - do as much as they can to deepen and enrich their own data by asking users to sign in or create an account so they can get to know and understand them better. There has historically been a perception that users won’t see the value in this, but consumers have become much more accustomed to registering on sites as the practice has become commonplace. The Telegraph Media Group, for example, recently reached 400,000 paying subscribers and five million registered users after switching to a paywall and metered-access model just two years ago, defying years of widely-touted wisdom that users would never pay for what they could get for free elsewhere.

The reality of our rapidly digitising world is that identity solutions have moved on - and companies need to move with them. InfoSum offers the ability to share insights without moving data, powering trust through increased privacy and security. Collaborating and connecting data the InfoSum way means doing it the right way, solving the right problems, and benefiting from richer data and the commercially-valuable knowledge this brings.

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