| Tech & Development

ITP & The Challenges Of Stricter Cookie Laws

We take data integrity seriously.

This commitment stems from the undeniable value of data, serving as the backbone of modern business strategies as it sparks innovation and improves efficiency.

The vehicle that drives revenue and creates a competitive advantage.

However, the operational landscape for data analytics has been reshaped with the enforcement of strict data privacy regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the United States. These laws introduce rigorous compliance demands that impact everything from data collection to storage and usage, presenting new challenges for professionals across the spectrum, from data managers to CEOs.

Understanding this, we have been monitoring how major web browsers are adapting to restrictive data privacy regulations. In response to these evolving standards, these browsers have introduced a range of technological measures that alter how businesses can track and analyse consumer behaviour. These challenges are designed to enhance user privacy and reshape the landscape of online tracking and digital advertising.

Safari has introduced Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) and other advanced privacy protections, which restrict how advertisers and websites can track users across sites using cookies, thereby setting new privacy benchmarks within the browser ecosystems.

Firefox’s Enhanced Tracking Prevention (ETP) automatically blocks many third-party tracking cookies, reducing the volume of data advertisers can gather, and protecting users from extensive data harvesting.

Microsoft Edge features Tracking Prevention, which blocks known privacy-invading trackers and cookies. This feature offers users three levels of protection, giving them control over their online privacy.

Google Chrome has announced ambitious plans to phase out third-party cookies by 2024, already restricting third-party cookies for 1% of Chrome Stable clients from January 4th, 2024. This signals a major shift in the landscape of online advertising, and is expected to drive a major transition in how ads are targeted and delivered across the web.

Additionally, tech giants like Google and Facebook have developed specific tools to adapt to these privacy enhancements. Google introduced the site-wide conversion tracking/remarketing tag to mitigate the impacts of ITP 2.0, while Facebook launched its First Party cookie for similar purposes. However, with the introduction of ITP 2.2, these measures no longer work.

Let’s take Apple’s updates to ITP technology to understand the significant shifts in how businesses can collect and use consumer data.

ITP’s impact on cookie lifespan

  • ITP 2.1 made a notable change by reducing the lifespan of first-party cookies to just 7 days. This adjustment narrows the window for tracking user activities, presenting a challenge for long-term data analysis.
  • ITP 2.2 took this a step further by shortening the cookie duration to 24 hours under specific conditions, tightening the constraints on user tracking even more.
  • ITP 2.3 introduced even stricter controls that now extend to local storage, reducing the avenues for persistent user data storage and essentially rewriting the rules for how user information can be retained.

Challenges for A/B testing

Consider a scenario where an eCommerce website implements a new user interface based on incorrect data analysis. This redesign not only fails to improve customer engagement, but also leads to a decrease in user satisfaction and sales. Flawed A/B testing results can result in initiatives that not only fall short of their goals, but could also potentially damage the company’s brand reputation and revenue growth.

These tightened privacy measures have profound implications for A/B testing, where accurate and consistent user tracking is essential.

With the reduced cookie lifespan:

  • Users may be assigned a different test variation when returning after 7 days.
  • More users are counted as ‘new’ rather than ‘returning,’ which can significantly skew A/B test results.
  • More users may be included in the test, rendering our expectations for sample size irrelevant.
  • The inability to consistently track user interactions across multiple sessions may lead to premature or incorrect declarations of winning variations.
  • Inaccurate findings for decision-making could lead to misguided business strategies and detrimental outcomes in the future.

Impact on marketing attribution

Similarly, the impact of these privacy regulations extends to marketing attribution, complicating how marketers can follow a customer’s journey across digital touchpoints.

The shortened lifespan of cookies severely limits marketers’ ability to track engagements over an extended period, often leading to misattributed revenues and distorted ROI analyses.

Without a clear, comprehensive view of how consumers interact with various marketing initiatives, businesses may struggle to determine which strategies are genuinely effective.

Sever-side solutions and first-party cookies

To mitigate the limitations imposed by browser restrictions, many companies have shifted towards the use of server-side cookies. These approaches ensure consistent session management and user tracking while adhering to stringent privacy standards. Enhanced server-side cookie management, using techniques like HTTP response settings and edge caching, centralises data operations to maintain functionality and compliance.

A/B testing strategies

Adjusting A/B testing strategies requires a comprehensive approach that includes improving cookie management, selectively excluding data from specific browsers, and refining session management to enhance testing accuracy in light of privacy regulations.

Additionally, promoting user login or platforms that require authentication can complement these technical measures by reducing dependency on cookies. Once users are logged in, a persistent user ID can track activities across sessions, ensuring that privacy regulations are met while essential tracking functions are maintained.

Final thoughts

It is imperative to understand not only the intrinsic value of data, but also the critical importance of managing it with the utmost integrity and foresight. In light of regulatory changes and browser updates, maintaining this standard is no longer merely advisable – it’s crucial for safeguarding your business’s future.

Therefore, it is essential for every business leader, data manager, and marketing strategist to immediately evaluate their current data handling practices and ensure they align with these new requirements. Consider the technological and strategic insights we’ve discussed as starting points for strengthening your data privacy frameworks. Implement server-side solutions, enhance first-party cookie management, and refine user tracking methods to not only comply with the law, but but to protect and respect the privacy of your users – turning regulatory compliance into a competitive edge.

Don’t wait for the shifting tide of privacy regulations to dictate your next move. Be proactive. Take control of your data practices today and ensure that your business remains resilient, compliant, and trusted by consumers who are increasingly aware of their digital rights.

In a world where data integrity is paramount, the cost of inaction can be far greater than the investments in adaption.

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