Two types of privacy-focused tracking that will not leave you in the dark

25 November 2021 | Lazlo Cootmans

Privacy is increasingly becoming a crucial aspect of digital. It’s time for marketers to adapt and find ways to still get relevant data without intruding on the privacy of their users.

Most of us don’t want to be followed around and monitored every step of the way. That is why companies like Apple, Mozilla, and even Google are pushing towards a stronger focus on privacy with their products and services. While this is a great development for all of us as digital users, as a business you still want to know how your website, web shop, or application is performing. That’s where privacy-friendly tracking comes into play.

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Bye-bye third-party cookies

Third-party cookies – trackers which can follow users around across various domains – are standing on their last legs. Browsers like Safari, Firefox, and soon Google Chrome will block them from following you around, making them pretty much useless to any marketer who relies on them for purposes like advertising.

Meanwhile, regulations in certain regions require you to ask consent for first-party cookies (which are restricted to your own domain). Only a very limited number of performance or functional cookies - which are required to make your site, web shop, or application run properly - are still allowed to run without explicit consent of your users.

Privacy-friendly tracking is a more tolerable and compliant way of collecting data while still trying to be competitive with other tracking solutions.

What if there’s no consent?

This strong focus on privacy is great, as it allows users to browse the internet carefree. After all, 90% of internet users have indicated that they are concerned about the data that’s collected about them and how it’s used.

However, as you run your business, you need data you can rely on to measure the impact of your actions. Does no consent mean no insights? Fortunately not. You don’t have to wind up in a black box when users decide to reject cookies. You can still collect relevant data about the use of your digital interface while respecting these privacy preferences. We have identified two viable options we like to call privacy-friendly and privacy-first tracking.

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Privacy-friendly tracking

Privacy-friendly tracking is a more tolerable and compliant way of collecting data while still trying to be competitive with other tracking solutions. It’s focused on keeping the loss of data to a bare minimum, so that you do not end up in the dark. We usually recommend this type of tracking for organizations in highly competitive markets, commercial businesses, or low-profile sites.

How to track in a privacy-friendly way

We disable all advertising features, since these usually require third-party cookies. Simultaneously, we set up Google Analytics cookies as first-party. This way, you won’t be able to track the user across domains. This will lose you some insights like demographic information, but you are still able to gain relevant information through anonymous IP tracking. However, it is important to keep in mind that you should not collect data like member ID’s, guest ID’s, user ID’s, et cetera. This data – though anonymized – comes down to you storing information about the visitor, which is exactly what you should be avoiding.

Tools like Google Analytics 4 are constantly evolving to offer you more accurate insights without using cookies.

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Privacy-first tracking

Where privacy-friendly tracking still falls back on a bare minimum of first-party cookies, privacy-first tracking shuts out cookies entirely. Both third and first party cookies will be blocked when there’s no consent. Of course, this means there will be a bigger loss of data. The goal of privacy-first tracking is to still offer you enough insights to not fall into a black box. It’s the best option for every organization that’s serious about privacy. Think governments, NGO’s, or even businesses like Apple, that make privacy a USP. It’s also the way to go for sites or applications that are dealing with sensitive topics, like those of insurance companies, or for platforms with a lot of underage users.

What it looks like in practice

This option opts for a true cookie-less approach. No cookies means less accurate tracking. Insights like time on page, entrances, exits, and session duration, will become inaccurate because we can’t track from one session to another. You will be able to log some data, though. You’ll get a good idea of total amount of page views and still get an impression of what’s going on on your website. Simultaneously, tools like Google Analytics 4 are constantly evolving to offer you more accurate insights without using cookies. This means that over time, with the help of factors like artificial intelligence, this option will offer you more relevant insights as well.

Should you go privacy-friendly or privacy-first?

It’s up to you to decide how you approach non-consent to cookies on your website or platform. It comes down to the type of business you’re in and where you land on the privacy discussion. Both privacy-first and privacy-friendly approaches will guarantee your visitors to remain anonymous and to not be followed around by trackers that uncover and store personal data. The privacy-friendly way will still offer you some insights into visitor behavior on your platform, though, which makes it more suitable for organizations that rely on this data to optimize. On the other hand, privacy-first tracking will likely become more relevant over time, as platforms like Google Analytics get optimized to offer you better insights without using cookies.

Plan a 1 hour free consultation on this topic

Looking to set up a more privacy-focused website or platform for your users? Or are you wondering how to handle privacy topics as a business in general? feel free to reach out. Our experts can help you decide which way suits your organization best and set up an efficient solution.

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