The persistence of cookies in digital marketing and UK’s surprising plans for GDPR

With March, and indeed the first quarter of the year, coming to an end, it’s once again time to take five minutes to catch up on some of the digital advertising news stories that you may have missed over the past month.

What we have for you today: The persistence of cookies in digital marketing, the tightening of privacy legislation, and the UK’s surprising plans for GDPR.

Tenacious cookies

There’s been much talk over the past few years about the move to a post-cookie future. However, if research from Adobe is anything to go by, we are still some way out from a totally cookieless advertising ecosystem. The company’s survey of marketing and customer experience leaders in the US, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and India found that 75% of marketers still rely heavily on third-party cookies. The research suggests that ambiguity over cookie deprecation is causing confusion, and in some cases, inaction.

Clearly, despite real progress by many brands, publishers, and ad tech companies in making advertising more privacy-conscious, cookie deprecation is unlikely to happen without significant regulatory pressure. Indeed, it’s notable that in countries like the UK with relatively advanced privacy laws, the proportion of marketers using cookies is lower than in regions with less advanced privacy laws, such as India (70% vs 82% according to Adobe’s study).

The rise of the regulators

Indeed, all the signs are that privacy laws are only going to become more numerous and stringent in the years ahead. Research by AWO, a legal firm, suggests that privacy in digital advertising is going to be a top priority for the next European Commission, which will start work in 2024. The Commission is already discussing a potential “Digital Fairness Act” to further regulate the ways advertisers gather consent for processing consumers’ data.

Privacy laws are therefore likely to become broader. They will also become deeper. For instance, US lawmakers have introduced the Upholding Protections for Health and Online Location Data (UPHOLD) Privacy Act, which would prohibit the use of “personally identifiable health data collected from any source, including data from users, medical centers, wearable fitness trackers, and web browsing histories” for advertising purposes. Businesses that deal with sensitive data including health status, political opinions, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or genetic data will have to comply with a raft of regulations on top of more general data protection laws.

Thinking global

In other regulatory news, the UK Government has announced plans to reshape its domestic data privacy law to reduce costs and “save the UK economy more than £4 billion over the next 10 years.” The proposed laws aim among other things to give businesses greater flexibility over how they apply the UK’s data laws and “provide organisations with greater confidence about when they can process personal data without consent.”

As can be expected with all things relating to UK-EU divergence, the proposal has attracted praise and criticism in equal measure. On the one hand are those welcoming the move as an innovation driver, on the other those concerned that it would weaken the UKs privacy regime.

The real problem with the proposal however is that it is a localised approach for a global challenge. Digital platforms and publishers operate across boundaries and it’s simply not practical for them to tailor their approaches for the possibility of incremental gains in a single region.

The more efficient approach for brands and publishers is to comply with the global gold standard, which in this case is the EU’s GDPR, as doing so ensures compliance across all regions through a single framework. Whatever changes the UK makes to its privacy laws are largely irrelevant, brands and digital platforms alike will be much more concerned about complying with the EU’s increasingly stringent regime.

More from Novatiq

Thanks for reading. If you’re looking for more stories, thoughts, and comments on all things related to digital marketing then please drop by our blog. This month, you can hear from our very own Tanya Field on why there are so few women in tech and what steps can be taken to turn the tide, and learn more about how telco business models are changing to support digital marketing.

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