Clearcode Cartoon #2: The Party’s Over for AdTech

Privacy in AdTech: The Party's Over


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December 31, 2019, will mark the end of a decade. It will also mark the end of an era in online advertising — one where third-party cookies have powered mass data collection and user privacy has been ignored. 

Privacy laws, like the GDPR, and privacy settings in browsers, like Safari’s ITP and Firefox’s ETP, are ushering in a new era for online advertising. 

And unlike the previous era, this one will be all about respecting user privacy.

To survive the next decade and prosper in this new era, AdTech companies will need to change their technology, business models, and mindset to a privacy-first world.

When it comes to mass data collection via third-party cookies and ignoring user privacy, the party is well and truly over for AdTech.

Background about the cartoon

  • For over a decade, AdTech companies have been collecting huge amounts of user data without any real regard for user privacy.
  • This collection has mainly been done by placing scripts on websites and creating third-party cookies in web browsers so AdTech companies can identify users across different websites and build profiles about their behavior and interests.
  • Other user identification methods have also been introduced, such as device fingerprints.
  • More recently, a number of privacy laws, like the EU’s GDPR, have been introduced to protect user data and give users more control over how their data is collected, stored, and used.
  • The GDPR requires companies to obtain explicit and voluntary consent from users before they collect their data or identify them, e.g. via third-party cookies.
  • The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has said that the RTB in its current form doesn’t comply with the GDPR due to the way personal data is broadcast and collected.
  • Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) feature blocks third-party cookies by default and restricts how long first-party cookies and local storage data can stay in a user’s browser.
  • Firefox’s Enhanced Tracking Prevention blocks cross-site tracking cookies (third-party cookies created by AdTech companies) by default and allows users to block device fingerprinting by changing their privacy settings.
  • Both Safari’s ITP and Firefox’s ETP have reduced the availability of third-party cookies by 40% according to some estimates.
  • Google’s Chrome has given users more control over how third-party cookies are set and stored, allowing users to block and delete them. These changes will likely come into effect in February 2020.
  • The California Consumer Privacy Act will come into force on January 2020 and allow citizens and residents in California to say “no” to companies selling their data.

It’s clear that the future of online advertising will need to operate without relying on third-party cookies and needs to respect user privacy and comply with privacy laws.

Reading recommendation

Read our online book

The AdTech Book by Clearcode

Learn about the platforms, processes, and players that make up the digital advertising industry.

Mike Sweeney

Head of Marketing

“The AdTech Book is the result
of our many years of experience in designing and developing advertising and marketing technologies for clients.”

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