If the Third-Party Web Cookie Crumbles, Can AI Replace It?
The cookie is at the center of many consumer privacy debates as legislators, companies, and consumers become increasingly worried about their privacy as cookies can track consumers without their knowledge or consent. With this, it is likely other forms of analytics, like using artificial intelligence, will contribute to crushing the cookie.
In 1994, Netscape engineer Lou Montulli built the cookie, a small text file with pieces of data that can be placed on a user’s device, to add short-term memory to the browsing experience of early websites. Montulli built the original cookie to avoid other solutions like giving permanent IDs to users so they couldn’t be tracked. However, people found ways to hack cookies and track just that.
The cookies most brought up in privacy debates are third-party cookies, implanted and stored on-device by websites you are not currently using. They ride along with you, as you surf the web, and can be used to triangulate demographic information for ad targeting and attributing your transactions to ad exposure.
The Cookie’s Disappearance
Recently, more and more companies are choosing not to use third-party cookies. Ever noticed that Apple’s Safari browser already blocks cross-tracking third party cookies across sites? Third-party cookies are also gone from Firefox through its Total Cookie Protection feature. Google plans to phase out third-party cookies on Chrome by 2023 because “users are demanding greater privacy—including transparency, choice and control over how their data is used.” Advertisers will feel the loss of the third-party cookie most strongly and will have to seek new ways to access similar sets of data.