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Why third-party cookies have gone stale

Here's everything you need to know about cookies and the future of your privacy


Libby Cohen


Posted on Mar 29, 2020   Updated on Jun 9, 2020, 12:38 pm CDT

Most people are accustomed to pressing “accept all” to the tracking pop-up that greets them at most websites.

Do you accept these third-party cookies?

Saying “yes” means that. to a certain extent, advertisers can track your clicks to provide you with a more customized ad experience. But many people aren’t comfortable with companies tracking their internet activity.

Now, Google is following other browsers but cutting third-party cookies from their diets. Chrome’s 80th version will move away from third-party cookies over the next two years.

Google says the transition is to provide users with greater control over their privacy settings. Some would say it’s just transferring data to Google.

Third party-cookies have been on their way out of internet domains for the past decade. Before cookies become a thing of the past, here is everything you need to know about cookies and how they affect your internet privacy.

What are cookies?

Just like the cookies you might eat for dessert, not all internet-variety cookies are the same. Google plans to remove third-party cookies but maintain first-party cookies.

First-party cookies are created by the site owners on their own domain. For example, a cookie created by the owner of the Daily Dot, solely used on, would be a first-party cookie.

These cookies allow site owners to collect analytic data and preferences like language, shopping carts, usernames, and passwords.

Passwords are likely the most useful to site visitors. First-party cookies save login information so users do not have to log into apps like Instagram every time.

Third-party cookies, on the other hand, are created by outside actors on a different domain from the one a user is visiting. Their purpose is to track activity across websites for the goal of targeted advertising.

The cookie essentially records what a user is doing on certain pages, like what ads they interact with, what social media posts they like, or what clothes are in their shopping cart. Because browsers like Chrome interact with the same ad server, the cookie recognizes an individual user based upon saved information across other websites.

Who uses cookies?

Advertisers and marketers relied on third-party cookies as a way to track consumer wants across the internet.

Because cookies provide specific information for each user, advertisers customize ads to best fit the customer. The process results in higher ad revenue because users are likely to interact with an ad that fits their needs.

Privacy laws like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe have made it harder to utilize cookies, by forcing domains to tell users what their information is being used for. That is why, now, the common, “Do you accept these cookies?” pops up.

These laws have also brought to light how user information is being used, unbeknownst to the user in most circumstances. It has forced other browsers, like Apple’s Safari, to entirely block the use of third-party cookies.

How Google has become the “cookie monster”

Google was the last remaining browser to use third-party cookies. Its revenue is based 90% off of ad revenue, according to Cookie Script. This means removing third-party cookies will have a negative impact on their ad income.

Some privacy experts are skeptical of the move. Elizabeth Renieris, a data protection and privacy lawyer, told Digital Trends that user information is not necessarily becoming less accessible.

“They’re not really changing underlying tactics, they’re just channeling it all through Google,” Renieris told Digital Trends. “How privacy-preserving is this, actually?”

While Google is blocking mystery ad companies from following your internet activity, it is not stopping itself from tracking user data. All Google is doing is monopolizing user data and forcing ad companies to go directly through Google.

Will there be cookies in our future?

First-party cookies do not face similar threats as third-party cookies. They are seen as helpful and non-invasive to users.

Meanwhile, third-party cookies have been the target of privacy advocates due to the illegal sharing of cookie information and privacy leaks.

A 2010 study by researchers at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute found 75% of 120 major websites had information leaks to third-party trackers.

Technology firms have already moved forward in providing marketers new solutions in place of cookies. LiveRamp, an advertising tech solution company, started working on these replacements when Google first announced the privacy changes.

Their website says cookies are problematic because, in addition to the importance of individual privacy, cookies prevent ad agencies from having transparent relationships with their target audiences.

LiveRamp is providing marketers with channels like chatrooms to make meaningful connections with consumers—all while complying with data privacy laws.

Otherwise, advertisers will have to access their target audience by going through Google, who will soon have domain over the information the cookies once held.

How to block third-party cookies until then

Prior to Chrome 80, it is the user’s responsibility to allow or block cookies.

If you’re a Chrome user and don’t want ad agencies to track your internet activity in the final months of the third-party cookie, there are a few easy steps to take.

This is especially important if you’re trying to save money. On sites for flight or hotel booking, cookies can jack up prices if you go back and forth on a booking page.

This rang true for Guardian reporter Patrick Collinson. He said he checked the price for a flight and then closed out the tab. Once he returned to the same flight, just minutes later, the price had increased. Confused as to why, Collinson cleared his browser cookies and the price went back down.

One simple way to avoid cookies is to use a private or incognito page.

Or to feel less sketchy, a user can block third-party cookies in their Google Chrome preferences.

  • Go to settings by clicking on the three little dots by the URL bar. On Macs, click Chrome at the top left part of the screen then preferences.
  • Click on “Advanced” and scroll down to “Privacy and security.”
  • Under this, click “Site settings” then “Cookies and site data.”
  • To block all cookies turn off “Allow sites to save and read cookie data” or just turn on “Block third-party cookies.”

And you’ll be cookie-free.


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*First Published: Mar 29, 2020, 6:30 am CDT