White Paper Suggests Alternatives to the Fading Web Cookie

As more people now browse the Internet on multiple devices, Web cookies are becoming less reliable and are on their way to being phased out. The question of what will replace the technology points to companies like Google and Apple, which will likely have greater control over the technologies behind online tracking. A white paper by the Interactive Advertising Bureau puts forward possible solutions, such as device manufacturers providing data about their customers’ habits to marketers.

According to The Wall Street Journal, digital advertisers are particularly anxious about the future of cookies as companies like Facebook and Google announce their earnings. The IAB describes its white paper as a “first step” toward “eliminating one of the biggest limitations impacting mobile advertising today.”

“One area the IAB examined is targeting consumers by the devices they use,” WSJ reports. Device manufacturers like Apple and Samsung would assign unique numbers to individual devices to report browsing activity to advertisers. In fact, Apple already has its own identifier for its mobile devices.

“The way the industry approaches cross-device matching today is through sophisticated guesswork,” the article notes. “By contrast, a device identifier affords perfect accuracy.” It would even make opting out — for consumers who don’t want to be tracked — much simpler.

Other options suggested by the bureau would be to track information within the operating systems or browsers. Data could also be stored in the cloud, though it would be more difficult to come to an agreement on who would control and pay for cloud storage.

“Cookies can’t follow people across different browsers and lose track of people who clean them out,” WSJ says, explaining why they’re becoming outdated. “Because cookies don’t work well on phones, advertisers who use cookies often have trouble figuring out when a desktop and mobile device belong to the same person. They can’t easily discern, for example, whether a person who was looking at shoes on their phone early in the day decided to buy the shoes on their desktop that evening.”