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What is a third-party cookie

As concerns grow, regulations like GDPR and CCPA are enforcing stricter consent requirements, and major tech players, including Google, are phasing out third-party cookies.
Read time
7 min read
Published
May 26, 2023
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If you’re a regular Internet user, you have undoubtedly encountered pop-up notifications informing you that the site uses a third-party cookie. But have you ever taken a moment to discover what is a third-party cookie and what it’s used for? 

Website cookies are the data from a specific website stored in your computer while browsing the Internet. Conversely, third-party cookies are set by sites besides the one you browse. These cookies are usually placed on your device by a site from a domain different from the one you’re visiting. 

You can set cookie preferences to prevent a website from collecting the data you type. It’s best to remember that allowing third-party cookies poses privacy risks since performance cookies can track your online activity across multiple sites. Thus, it’s no surprise that there are growing concerns regarding third-party cookies. This is attested to by Google’s decision to phase out third-party cookies. 

How Do Third-Party Cookies Work? 

Have you ever wondered why similar ads seem to pop up whenever you browse the Internet? Well, third-party cookies are the culprit. For instance, if you’re checking out the iPhone 15 and intend to place an order as you browse different e-commerce sites, they will store a cookie on your web browser. 

In turn, the cookies track your online activity, collecting data about your preferences. Later, when following the latest news on your favorite social media platform, you may see ads for the iPhone 15 you were checking out. That’s because the social media website uses a similar ad platform as the e-commerce website. Thus, it recognizes you based on the unique IDs third parties store. 

So, how do cookies work? 

Generally, third-party cookies embed JavaScript from one site to another. That way, they can report users’ browsing habits across multiple websites. The cookies aggregate data collected during browsing sessions to create a web identity for each user. When you visit an e-commerce website to shop for the latest iPhone models, the cookies injected by the website will enable it to remember the models you checked or added to your cart. 

Conversely, third-party cookies will map and share your data with other sites. When third-party cookies are in place, you’ll see the items you previously checked out when you revisit the website. 

So, if you’ve been scratching your head, wondering why you see familiar ads even when visiting a website, that’s how third-party cookies work. They are the most effective tool for marketers to send targeted ads to Internet users. 

What Are Third-Party Cookies Used For? 

Third-party cookies primarily track your online activity to increase the chances of conversion. They’re mainly used to track your browsing history and online activities and display personalized ads for services or products you might be interested in. 

How to Manage Cookie Preferences

As a web user, you can choose whether or not to allow third-party cookies to collect your data and track your online activities. 

How to Enable Third-Party Cookies

The process of enabling third-party cookies varies from browser to browser. 

Google Chrome (Windows)

Here is how to manage cookie preferences on your Google Chrome browser when using different operating systems: 

Windows Devices

  • Select the Chrome icon, then select the Settings icon.
  • Click the Show Advanced Settings at the bottom of the page.
  • Scroll down to the Privacy icon, click Content Settings, then Cookies. 
  • Ensure the slider on the cookies page is off to block third-party cookies. 
  • Close and reload the browser. 

Mac Devices

  • Open Chrome Preferences on your browser, select Settings, then click Show Advanced Settings. 
  • The Privacy Menu will appear alongside Content Settings. Click on the Content Settings icon. 
  • Ensure the “Block third-party cookies and site data” box isn’t checked. 
  • Close the menu and reload the browser. 

Enabling Cookies in Safari

These are the steps to enable cookies when using the Safari browser on a Mac device. 

  • Open the browser and navigate to the drop-down menu on the homepage. 
  • Select Preferences, then click the Privacy icon in the top panel. 
  • Click the Block Cookies icon, then select the Never option. 
  • For enhanced security, change the browser’s Privacy setting back to always when you finish using the website. 

Third-Party Cookies Privacy Concerns

Cookies are not inherently harmful, which is attested to by the fact that 95 % of websites leverage third-party cookies for harmless reasons, including making returning visitors’ user experience seamless. Nonetheless, the problem lies with ad networks, which collect and store significant user data, including personally identifiable information.

Since advertisers place cookies on various websites, they can easily access sensitive personal data, including contact info, medical history, and more. Worse still, such information is usually linked directly to users’ real identities.  

The problem with third-party cookie tracking is its all-encompassing and ubiquitous nature. In addition, it’s a key cog in the digital advertising wheel. However, its privacy implications are significant. That’s particularly true when you consider that personally identifiable data often gets collected without the users’ knowledge and permission. 

As a result, it’s no surprise that tech players are starting to phase out third-party cookies. A case in point is Google, which announced that it would begin phasing out third-party cookies in 2024. Other companies will follow suit by asking advertisers to change tactics and deploy less intrusive targeted advertising methods. 

Third-Party Cookie Compliance

As a regular internet user in the modern interconnected world, you’re undoubtedly concerned with how websites collect and store your data. You’re not alone because we’ve all been in a similar situation. Sadly, most websites don’t explicitly inform us about the information they collect and how they disclose it to third parties. Not to mention that there’s always a nagging concern that the disclosed data won’t be used ethically by whoever accesses it. 

Thankfully, governments are coming to the rescue of Internet users. Regulations such as the GDPR and CCPA stipulate how third-party cookies collect data. This begs the question, what is cookie consent? Also, are third-party cookies on their deathbed? Here’s how these compliance regulations will affect third-party cookies: 

CCPA

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) stipulates how companies should collect and handle personal information. It also defines how businesses should use third-party cookies. According to the CCPA, cookies are a vital marketing tool for modern business. Even so, the regulation recognizes that some third-party cookies are intrusive and thus threaten users’ Privacy. 

Under CCPA rules, every regulated company must assess its cookie implementation to ensure fair and transparent practices are in place. Furthermore, additional steps should be taken to ensure compliance. In this regard, you must take these cookie compliance measures if the CCPA regulation applies to your company: 

  • Your Cookies Policy and Privacy Policy should outline your cookie practices. 
  • Add a “Do Not Sell My Personal Data” page on your website and incorporate links in noticeable areas of your site/app. 
  • Allow users to submit opt-out requests. Furthermore, such requests should be honored. 
  • Incorporate a “Notice at Collection” in your Privacy Policy. If not, host it on a separate but prominent webpage. 

GDPR Cookie Consent

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) governs the collection and handling of personal data by companies operating in the EU. The regulation stipulates that website operators and owners must ensure they collect and process data lawfully. Likewise, websites operating outside the bloc must comply with the rule if they collect data from users within the bloc. 

The GDPR only mentions cookies once, but cookie consent is one of the regulation’s cornerstones. That isn’t surprising because cookies are a common way for websites to collect and share personal data. Under the ordinance, businesses must comply with these cookie requirements: 

  • Prior consent should be sought before any cookie activation besides necessary allowed cookies. 
  • The cookie consent must be granular in that website users can choose some and reject what they don’t prefer. 
  • The consent shouldn’t be forced. 
  • Users should have the option of withdrawing their consent. 
  • The consent must be stored securely as legal documentation. 
  • Depending on jurisdiction, the consent should be renewed annually. Some EU countries recommend more frequent third-party consent renewal. 

GDPR third-party cookie compliance is achieved on websites primarily via cookie consent banners. These allow users to choose and accept some cookies for activation and reject others when they visit a website. 

Cookie Consent Management

If CCPA, GDPR, or other data privacy regulations apply to your business, you must implement cookie consent management. This is the process of collecting and handling users’ cookie consent. Regarding the GDPR, website users must take positive and affirmative actions like checking tick-boxes to accept cookies. For this reason, informing website users about using third-party cookies doesn’t suffice. 

On the other hand, the CCPA stipulates that implied cookie consent is sufficient. In this regard, third-party cookies can be created on users’ devices by default. Even so, they can stop the establishment of cookies by informing a website about their preferences. 

Optimal Compliance at Minimal Effort

Every company needs to collect customer data for deeper engagement. Nonetheless, the last thing you want is to face hefty non-compliance penalties for disregarding data privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA. For this reason, you need a trusted cookie consent management solution that helps you obtain and manage user consent. Ketch Data Permissioning is one such solution. Request a demo today to automate your data privacy operations. 

Read time
7 min read
Published
May 26, 2023
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