Tracking in the "Cookieless Future": How does it work?

Tracking in the "Cookieless Future": How does it work?

In recent years, the landscapes of digital marketing and advertising have changed rapidly. Particularly, the widespread use of Third- Party Cookies, which long formed the basis for online tracking, are increasingly being phased out ("Cookieless Future"). This development raises questions and requires innovative solutions to continue to make digital marketing effective.

Therefore, we take a look at the challenges and opportunities of the "Cookieless Future", explore the possibilities and limitations of cookieless tracking, and present a promising approach: using First-Party Data in combination with compliance-oriented ID-Graphs and consent solutions.


The essential in brief :

  • The "Cookieless Future" necessitates new, innovative tracking solutions as Third- Party Cookies are increasingly disappearing and the use of tracking is tied to user consent.

  • Companies have the option to increasingly rely on First-Party Data to effectively manage digital marketing.

  • Through compliance-oriented consent management and the use of First-Party Data in combination with a First-Party ID-Graph, tracking can be realised without the use of Third-Party Cookies.

What are Cookies?

You probably agree to the collection of cookies (or decline them) multiple times a day on websites you visit for the first time. But do you actually know what cookies are?

Cookies are small text files that websites store on your computer or mobile device when you visit them. They are used to store and recognise your browsing behaviour, such as your language settings, login information, or what's in your shopping cart. The need to give your consent ("Cookie Consent") for the collection of cookies on every website stems from the GDPR data protection regulations, which aim to protect your online privacy.

When you choose the option to accept "only necessary cookies" on a website, it means that the website can only set cookies that are essential for the basic functioning of the site. These cookies are usually necessary to provide services that have been explicitly requested, such as logging in, saving settings, or managing the shopping cart in online stores.

Necessary cookies are exempt from the consent requirement because they are essential for the operation of the website. They do not collect personal data for marketing purposes and do not conduct tracking operations that monitor users' browsing behaviour across different websites.

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How does tracking with Third-Party Cookies work?  

Tracking with third-party cookies is achieved by placing cookies on a user's device from a domain different from the website being visited. Here is a detailed overview of how this process unfolds:

  1. A User Visits a Website: when a user visits a website that collaborates with third-parties for advertising, analytics, or social media, these third-parties can place their own cookies in the user's browser.

  2. Setting of Third-Party Cookies: these cookies are set from the servers of the third-party, not from the domain of the visited website. For example, a website might display an advertising banner from an ad network. The ad network can then place its own cookie on the user's device to identify them.

  3. Data Collection: once the cookie is set, it collects data about the user's behaviour on the website—such as which pages were visited, how long the user stayed on the page, and what actions were taken. This Data is then sent to the server of the third-party.

  4. Tracking Across Various Websites: since the cookie comes from a third-party, the same cookie can track the user across various websites, as long as these websites also cooperate with the third-party. This allows the third-party to create a detailed profile of the user's online activities.

  5. Targeted Advertising: the collected data enables advertisers to place targeted advertisements. For example, a user who searched for running shoes might later see ads for those very products on a completely different website.

  6. Analysis and reporting: The data collected is processed and analysed by the third-party provider's servers. This analysis enables advertisers to understand user behaviour and evaluate the effectiveness of their advertising campaigns. Reports on the performance of the adverts, such as click-through rates, conversion rates and return on investment (ROI), are created and sent to the advertisers. These reports help advertisers to optimise their strategies and better target future campaigns.


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What does "Cookieless future" mean? 

Technical obstacles and legal requirements are making cookie tracking increasingly complex, leading to a change in cookie consent in the future. The term "Cookieless Future" does not describe a future completely without cookies, but rather the phasing out of Third-Party Cookies. This change is motivated not only by technical reasons but also by growing concerns regarding data protection and user privacy.

Meaning of "third-party cookies" and "first party cookies":

First Party Cookies are set directly by the website you visit. They collect user data such as language settings or login information to improve the user experience on that specific website.

Third-Party Cookies, on the other hand, are created by third parties, not by the actual visited website. They are often used for advertising purposes and tracking across multiple websites to offer personalised advertising based on your browsing behaviour.

What does a "cookieless future" (world without cookies) mean?

A ‘cookie-less future’ refers to a future in which third-party cookies become increasingly less important due to ever stricter data protection guidelines and technological changes and are expected to disappear completely. Major browser manufacturers such as Apple (Safari) and Mozilla (Firefox) already block third-party cookies by default. After several postponements, Google (Chrome) has announced that it will follow suit in 2025.

So what will tracking without Third-Party Cookies look like in the near future? 

In future, companies will be increasingly reliant on tracking solutions without third-party cookies in order to continue to gain insights into user behaviour and create personalised offers. What options are there?

The internet is constantly evolving, and so are the methods we use to track user behaviour. In recent years, cookieless tracking has gained significance, especially since the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It offers a way to monitor users' browsing behaviour on the internet without using cookies, which complies with Data protection regulations and preserves user privacy.


Cookieless tracking through fingerprinting? 

Fingerprinting collects information about a user's device, browser, operating system, screen resolution, and other characteristics to create a unique "fingerprint". Fingerprinting can be divided into different categories, particularly into active and passive fingerprinting, as well as browser and device fingerprinting. While active and passive fingerprinting differ in the method of data collection, the difference between browser and device fingerprinting focuses on the scope of information collected.

Passive FIngerprinting: passive fingerprinting gathers information without actively sending requests to the browser. Instead, it analyses Data that the browser automatically sends during normal interaction with the network, such as IP address, User Agent, HTTP header information, and TCP/IP characteristics. Because passive fingerprinting does not send active requests to the browser, it is harder for users to detect and block. Although it is less noticeable, passive fingerprinting can provide less detailed information than active fingerprinting.

Active Fingerprinting: in active fingerprinting, the server or script on a webpage actively requests information from the user's browser or device. This can include information about the browser type, screen resolution, installed fonts, plugins, and more. Active fingerprinting is usually more accurate than passive fingerprinting as it collects a broader range of Data, but it can also be more easily detected and blocked by browser extensions or privacy tools.

Browser Fingerprinting: this focuses on collecting information specific to a user's browser. This includes Data like browser type and version, language settings, installed plugins and extensions, cookies settings, and more. However, users can prevent the collection of information for fingerprinting when they visit a website by using ad blockers or specific tools like Canvas Blocker. This makes it harder for advertisers to track users and provide personalised advertising.

Device Fingerprinting: this goes beyond the browser and collects information about the user's device, including hardware characteristics, operating system, screen resolution, unique device IDs, and more. This method uses unique features of a device's hardware and software to create a unique digital fingerprint. This fingerprint allows the user to be recognised "cookielessly".

Privacy issues with Fingerprinting: fingerprinting raises several problems and concerns from a Data protection perspective. Here are the key aspects that are problematic in terms of privacy and Data protection:

The problem with Fingerprinting in Cookieless Tracking: "fingerprinting" in cookieless tracking is problematic because it identifies and tracks users based on unique device and browser characteristics without their consent. This technique enables the creation of detailed user profiles by collecting information about behaviour and preferences, which raises significant privacy concerns. Unlike cookies, which can be deleted, it is difficult to defend against fingerprinting, limiting users' control over their data and undermining their anonymity. 

Fingerprinting is therefore not a suitable substitute for cookies to enable tracking for marketing purposes. The use of fingerprinting for the purpose of increasing online security or fraud detection may be assessed differently.


Tracking based on a first-party ID-Graph 

Through compliant consent management and the use of first-party data in combination with a 1st -party ID-Graph, tracking for marketing purposes can be conducted in compliance with data protection laws, even without the use of 3rd -party cookies. Especially in conjunction with server-side tracking, the data collected in the browser are gathered and directly forwarded from the server to analytics or marketing tools, such as Google or Adobe Analytics.

It is crucial to send your own marketing ID from the first-party ID-Graph to the analytics tool with every user interaction. For instance, in Google Analytics, the marketing ID is sent as the Google User ID. This represents a consistent, unique identification for each user across various devices and sessions. This is particularly important in an increasingly multi-device world where a single user may interact with your website or app via smartphone, tablet, and desktop:

  • Cross-Device Tracking: The User ID enables Google Analytics to link interactions from a user across different devices and browsers into a single session. This provides a more complete picture of user behaviour.
  • Personalised User Experience: By tracking activities across multiple devices, businesses can create more personalised user experiences by understanding how users use their services on different platforms.
  • Improved Data Analysis: Integrating the User ID enhances the accuracy of user counts, conversion rates, and other metric analyses by reducing the duplication of user numbers across multiple devices.
  • Segmentation and Reporting: The User ID enables advanced segmentations and custom reporting based on the comprehensive behaviour of a user, rather than looking at isolated actions on a single device.


What is an ID-Graph?

A First-Party ID-Graph is a Data structure created and managed by a company to capture, link, and analyse the various identities and behaviours of a single user across multiple touchpoints and channels, with all information directly coming from the user or collected with their consent.

With associated, compliant consent management, companies can achieve a high consent rate while still respecting the privacy of users. By having users explicitly agree to share their Data, it becomes transparent how their Data is used, and they retain control over their privacy.

As a pioneer in the First-Party Data strategy, Teavaro has well prepared you for the Cookieless Future. With our innovative ID-Graphs, you can specifically capture First- Party Data and intelligently network it to obtain a comprehensive view of customers without obtaining misleading duplicates of user profiles. By using a consent management platform and their 1st Party ID-Graph, Teavaro enables digital marketing at the highest level without compromising user privacy.

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The solution: Teavaro's efficient Identity Resolution

Teavaro offers businesses the opportunity to create their own First- Party ID-Graph, leading to improved customer engagement and optimised media spendings. By utilising five different identification methods—Login, Self, Click, Cross-Domain, and Network Identification—Teavaro enables precise user identification (Identity Resolution).

With the help of the ID-Graph Builder, Teavaro can facilitate ID resolution across various browsers, apps, devices, and channels, creating unique profiles for previously anonymous users.

The benefits of a First-Party ID-Graph for your digital marketing include:

  • Optimisation of Advertising Spend: Increased Return on Advertising Spend through precise user identification.

  • Improved Attribution: Quality enhancement in attribution by accurately allocating advertising measures.

  • Deduplication: Effective deduplication of users across different channels.

  • More Identified Users: Expanded identification capabilities strengthen your MarTech stack without extensive migrations.

The result: Efficient digital marketing in times of a Cookieless Future—from increased conversion rates and more efficient use of the advertising budget to improved measurement of advertising effectiveness. Moreover, customers who utilise Teavaro can more than double their addressable digital audience and increase their revenue per customer.


Conclusion: opt for a First-Party ID-Graph when tracking without Third-Party Cookies

The future of tracking in a Cookieless Future may pose challenges for personalised, targeted marketing. However, with innovative approaches such as the use of First- Party ID-Graphs and a clear focus on Data protection and user-friendly Consent Management, companies like Teavaro are prepared to overcome these challenges for businesses.

How do you ensure your company's personalised marketing in a cookie-less future? We have the solution! Secure your initial consultation now:

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FAQ: Cookieless Tracking

Here, we have compiled some frequently asked questions and answers about cookieless tracking. 

What is the difference between cookis and tracking cookies?
Cookies are small Data files stored on a user's device by a website to retain information about the user or their interactions with the site. Their main purpose is to enhance the web usage experience. Tracking cookies are cookies that help gather information about a user's web activities, including pages visited and actions taken, to create a detailed profile for marketing purposes, analyse browsing behaviour, or measure the effectiveness of marketing campaigns.
What is a tracking pixel?
It is a tiny, invisible image that is embedded in a website or email. When this image is loaded, a request is sent to the server of the tracking service, which collects information about the page view or email opening. They are generally used to record conversions in order to optimise advertisements and for retargeting or remarketing.
What is a tag?
A tag is a code snippet that is embedded in the HTML code of a website. Tags are used to collect data, such as page views, clicks, form submissions and other user interactions, or to perform a specific function. This data is then sent to external services, such as analytics platforms or advertising networks. A tag can contain one or more tracking codes, but can also fulfil other functions.
What is a tracking code?
A tracking code is a specific piece of JavaScript code that is inserted into the HTML code of a website or app to track user behaviour and activity.
What is a tag management?
Tag management platforms make it possible to centrally manage, update and control tags without having to intervene directly in the website's source code. They can also define conditions under which cookies are set and tags or tracking pixels are executed. As a result, they play a central role in ensuring that tracking complies with data protection regulations by taking into account the user settings of the consent management platform.
What is a client-side tracking?
In client-side tracking, the code is executed directly in the user's browser (the client). When a user visits a webpage, the browser loads the tracking code from the webpage (e.g., JavaScript code), which then runs in the background and captures user interactions such as page views, clicks, and form submissions. The collected data is sent directly from the user's browser to the service provider's server (e.g., Google Analytics).
What is a server-side tracking?
In server-side tracking, Data collection and processing occur on the server after receiving a request from a client. Instead of the user's browser executing the tracking code, the Data typically sent by the browser is directly forwarded from the server to analytics or marketing tools. The benefits include:
Bypassing Browser Restrictions: Overcomes limitations imposed by browsers such as cookie restrictions, ad blockers, and JavaScript deactivation.
Higher Control and Data Security: Since the Data is processed and transmitted directly from the server, it offers greater control and security.
Potentially More Efficient and Privacy-Friendly: Since fewer user Data needs to be sent to Third-Parties, it can be more efficient and privacy-friendly.
These advantages generally come at the cost of higher implementation complexity compared to client-side tracking.


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About the author

Dirk Rohweder

Dirk Rohweder: COO and Founder | Teavaro