Google Won’t Build a Cookie Replacement: FAQ for Publishers

Sovrn Publisher Advocate // March 11, 2021

Google announced on March 3rd that they will not support “alternate identifiers” (such as a third-party cookie) that track readers, nor use them in their own products, but will continue supporting industry Privacy Sandbox solutions.

While this announcement generated plenty of media coverage, it shouldn’t come as news to anyone who’s been following the topic of third-party cookie deprecation. We’ve put together a quick FAQ for you, but here’s the main takeaway: you shouldn’t stop any privacy-first plans you’re already making. 

What are Alternate Identifiers?

Alternate user-level identifiers include trackers such as third-party cookies and Universal IDs (UIDs).

What does this change for Google?

Nothing, really. Google has been consistent in moving away from individual addressability and towards solutions that are intended to be more privacy preserving. This announcement is nothing new—it’s just a restatement of that position

What does this change for publishers? Should I be planning differently?

Also nothing, at least for the time being. And no, it doesn’t change anything about the ways publishers should be planning. The third-party cookie will remain supported by the Chrome browser until Q1 of 2022. Sovrn still recommends adopting one or several UIDs, collecting first party data about customers, and keeping an eye on what is coming from the standards bodies.  

Why are we hearing so much about it?

Some people see the Google announcement as an attack on UIDs in general.  But the truth is that log-in solutions like UID 2.0 and LiveRamp ATS continue to gain traction. These solutions require consent and give consumers control of how their personal information is used. Today, we’re seeing around 10% of traffic contain a Universal ID.  

Should I still adopt a UID?

Yes. We still recommend you adopt one or more UID and include them in your bid requests. Google has also come out in the press and said that they will support encrypted signals where UIDs can be passed through the bidstream.

How does this impact Sovrn?

This only reinforces our commitment to supporting the technologies that help publishers the most.  This includes the W3C proposals, in addition to technologies from Prebid and the IAB.  Additionally, it highlights the importance of Sovrn’s support for IAB-led initiatives to address accountability and consent.

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