Trust is the best alternative to cookies

Google is reported to be exploring alternatives to using cookies to track our online behaviour (for the purposes of serving ads) as a means of safeguarding against consumer privacy concerns. But wouldn’t a well-articulated privacy policy from the marketing industry remove the need to do so?

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The fact is that cookies don’t work very well on mobile as the most popular handset browser – i.e. Apple’s Safari – blocks third party cookies making it difficult for online advertisers to track the effectiveness of their campaigns.

So as an ad-funded ‘mobile first’ company, Google is searching for a new type of identifier that could replace cookies, according to US reports. 

Granting mobile users greater control over how their personal data is accessed by third parties has been cited as the main motivation for doing so. Similarly, earlier this week, Marketing Week also reported how EE, O2 and Vodafone’s joint venture Weve is  also exploring options to finding a cookie-alternative – for the same reasons.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide if you actually believe the justifications. But I think it’s pretty much safe to assume that, given the choice, most consumers will opt for ‘do not track’, as opposed to ‘yeah, tell me what to buy ad man…’.

Leaving aside the politics of which company lets others drop cookies on their devices, I think it’s important to address why the online industry has failed to articulate how the web, and all the convenience it brings, funds itself, i.e. advertising.

And that is the route of where the online advertising industry has gone wrong, there has clearly been a failure in marketing itself to the public.  

If online businesses made a cohesive effort to be 100 per cent honest with consumers and literally say: ‘we track your behaviour online to serve ads, so you can continue to use this service for free’, consumers might actually respect this transparency.

While online behavioural targeting may sound ‘spooky’ to many, in itself it is no bad thing, and being clear with people is likely to generate trust and that is more powerful than any marketing message. A more human approach can remove the need for a technical alternative to cookies. 

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