Platforms roll out new privacy protections – we round ‘em up for you

As the one-year anniversary of GDPR approaches, marketers are realizing the true impact that increased online privacy protections have on their industry. We are also starting to get a clearer picture of the changes in consumer behavior enabled by the new privacy options.

The industry

Let’s start with the industry. In the last month alone, we saw both Facebook and Google roll out new tools giving users more visibility, control and privacy options over their online data. The first one came from Google, which announced several privacy and transparency tools at its annual I/O conference.

One of these updates to the Chrome browser will require developers to explicitly state if their cookies are designed to work across websites, tracking a user’s browsing activity. This will not affect single-domain cookies but will enable users to see which sites are using cross-site cookies and delete them, if they choose so. This change came on the heels of Google already allowing users to automatically delete their browser history on a three- or 18-month rolling schedule.

Another announced update will restrict the use of a tracking method known as “fingerprinting.” More specifically, Google plans to reduce the ways in which browsers can be fingerprinted, and actively detect and prevent fingerprinting efforts as they happen. Finally, Google will expand Chrome’s “incognito” mode, which allows users to browse anonymously, to search and maps. With all these updates, Google is following in the steps of Apple, which has been building similar, but even more restrictive controls into its Safari browser for the last couple of years.

On the social media side, Facebook’s newly announced “Clear History” feature will allow users to disconnect their off-line and browsing activity from their Facebook profile. This will effectively prevent marketers from showing ads based on targeting parameters such as Custom Audiences and Facebook Pixel to users who activate the setting. This move will likely have a negative impact on remarketing and prospecting campaigns, if they rely on look-alike targeting. But the feature will not actually delete the user’s tracks, it will simply make the data anonymous, while still giving apps and websites access to aggregated analytics.

There is no doubt that all these changes will reduce the effectiveness and reach of digital marketing. You can read our next post for more on how Net Conversion plans to adjust to the changing online environment.

The consumers

Consumers have reacted somewhat differently to this plethora of new privacy options, with most of their behavior changes seemingly based on where they live. For example, consumers in some countries have become more restrained in sharing their location, given the opt-in choice. Post-GDPR Europe is seeing the sharpest decline in opt-ins, where location sharing has declined by as much as -62% in some regions, while in North America, location sharing is down by -25% year-over-year.

On the other hand, users are more engaged on their mobile devices. Mobile app audiences are up by nearly 17% on average compared to a year ago. This may be partly because marketers and publishers are relying on first-party data more than ever and sending more notifications, and partly because mobile device use continues to grow worldwide. Again, the results of these trends vary by region. In the Americas, Europe and Asia, there has been a small (less than -1%) drop in notifications opt-ins but an increase in the number of notifications being sent.

User choice is also dependent on the operating system of their device. More than 35% of consumers using Apple’s iOS choose to share their location while using an app. In contrast, Android users’ only choice is to share their location or not across the whole system and nearly half of them have chosen not to share it. Google announced, however, that the upcoming Android Q operating system will have the option to share location while using an app similar to iOS.