cookies are more than just baked goods

We have entered a new world where pretty much everything is ‘connected’ and moments of boredom are now filled with moments online doing something ‘useful’. In fact a study by Kinetic showed that we spend about £23 billion online shopping just whilst commuting. SVOD and watching video across websites has exponentially increased and has only accelerated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The launch of Disney+ hit 10 million subscribers in 1 day and reached its target number two years earlier than anticipated. With all this tech and abundance of media channels (often simultaneously used), there is obviously bound to be huge volume of data captured about our online behaviours. The common ways in which data is captured are cookies, which include location data and login data.  

Cookies are simple text files that contain two pieces of information (site name and unique user ID) which are downloaded onto your device when you visit the site for the first time. They are able to track how many times you visit the site, and this can help dictate what will show on your screen when you return. Some cookies are more sophisticated and can record more information like how log in you spend on each page, the link you click or what is in your ‘shopping cart’. Cookies make your interaction with frequently visited sites require much less effort. For example, Facebook and Instagram prioritise posts in users’ feeds according to what they believe they will engage with most based on connections and historical behaviour. This can also contribute to the Filter Bubble where a group of friends are often shared similar articles that reinforce ideals. 

Outside of cookies that help simplify your web browsing experience, targeting cookies exist. The three types of data, advertisers use are first party (immediate interactions with the advertisers), second party (bought from another company’s first party data) and third party (bought from a company that collects a lot of second party data from multiple sources). These can be credit card transactions, location data and login information. Publishers realise you can work with advertisers to create a useful data-nabbing cookie. 

All this online behavioural information is anonymous on an individual level but can be used for more precise audience targeting. The PECR (UK’s privacy and electronic communications regulations) and the EU GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) help limit control over personal data and ensure consent from the individual. Breaches result in massive fines and bad publicity. It even applies to international businesses as long as their VPN is based in Europe. 

Despite this, the public is becoming more aware of privacy concerns and paranoid of personal data storage as these cookies are able to build a picture of your browsing habits. This has been escalated by recent scandals such as Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of data to assist with Trump’s election in 2016. Cookies are now starting to ‘crumble’ as most web browsers are eliminating third party tracking by 2022 which will heavily affect the media industry and how we deliver advertising on the web. Almost all of the interactive internet ecosystem is about to be disrupters especially DMPs and DSPs. The infrastructure is already there for many of these processes such as programmatic, social and biddable media, so the industry will have to create a new game plan to work with these new limitations. 

Advertisers are increasingly reliant on the use of personal data to create more targeted, relevant and effective advertising messages but this is ever changing with the landscape of the web and decisions made by GAFA. The GDPR has radically transformed the way in which personal data is collected, shared and used, helping to tackle privacy concerns. Nevertheless, with new tech being formed every year such as VR, AR and mixed reality, new legislations will have to be put into place quickly so companies do not take advantage of loopholes for storing data. 

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