Corporate Eye

Who Stole the Web Cookie from the Cookie Jar?

cookie jarGoogle, Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook stole the web cookie from the cookie jar, and if these online giants have their way, the entire web cookie tracking ecosystem will slowly die.

Over the past ten months, Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook have all implemented technologies to bypass cookie dependence for tracking consumer behavior across devices. Google, Microsoft, and Apple are using unique identifier codes to track consumers who use their tools, sites, apps, smartphones, and tablets. On the other hand, Facebook developed its own tracking system as part of its ad service launched in October. The system identifies people based on whether or not they’ve logged into Facebook using a specific browser in the past.

Each of these companies has access to a huge amount of consumer behavioral data, and it makes sense for them to find ways to make that data profitable. By controlling the way users are tracked, these companies can “charge rent” to advertisers who need access to comprehensive and accurate data—something that cookies don’t provide. Cookies give advertisers data about consumer behavior, but they’re far from perfect. Furthermore, cookie tracking is delivering less reliable data than ever as more people access the web through mobile devices (cookies don’t work on mobile devices) or turn off cookie tracking completely through their web browser settings.

Google hasn’t tried to hide its intentions to collect and use as much behavioral data as possible to deliver better search results and improve its social search offerings. Both Google+ and Google’s most recent algorithm change make it very clear that Google is trying to amass large quantities of individual user data as it chases Facebook (by quite a distance) in this area.

In fact, for all four companies—Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook—collecting and leveraging their inherent access to consumer behavioral data is a smart strategy. On the flip side, companies that offer advertising technology for gathering and analyzing cookie data to improve ad buys should take notice. The world of online advertising is closing in on a significant change. The cookie jar is emptying quickly.

For brand advertisers, the news is good. This evolution means that more accurate tracking of online behavior and ad performance could finally become a reality.

Image: ccharmon

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.