In our most recent report on identity and measurement offerings from Google (Privacy Sandbox) and Apple (Private Click Measurement), we stumbled upon an ugly truth about data deprecation: Big tech will not solve this problem, and marketers shouldn’t wait any longer to test and identify practical in-market solutions.

As part of the research process, we reviewed technical documentation and interviewed companies that have tested or integrated their privacy-safe offerings. But none of the practitioners we interviewed believed a problem was solved by either Privacy Sandbox or Private Click Measurement, nor did they identify a way in which the “privacy-safe” data provided by Google or Apple would be meaningfully integrated into future targeting or measurement practices.

For now, maintaining the status quo further entrenches their dominant market positions. In the time since those interviews, leaked Google documentation revealed further dissembling, and Google announced another delay for third-party cookie deprecation in the Chrome browser until a yet-to-be-determined date. And industry watchers continue to express excitement over Apple’s promised foray into the adtech world that, until released, allows Apple to potentially harm its future competition under the guise of preserving privacy. With the ability to dictate which fields of data from billions of user devices will be truncated or deprecated, and when it will happen, Google and Apple are sandwiched between irreconcilable realities: Users demand basic privacy on the internet while regulators won’t allow them to use privacy technology to further entrench their dominant market positions.

Unanswered questions persist. Tactically, what will happen with the Privacy Sandbox and the 79 concerns from the UK’s ICO and CMA seeking redress? When will third-party cookies go away for good? Will Apple ever be a major player in measurement or adtech? And more existentially, how can companies navigate making responsible, sustainable changes for the future when the technological and regulatory reality may look completely different mere months from now?

Just because big tech plans to crawl across the finish line doesn’t mean that they are the only contenders in the race. Industry consortiums and third parties have been grinding away at privacy issues for years, and over the course of 2024, we’ll be diving deeper into tangible, in-market solutions designed to solve advertiser, publisher, and consumer concerns, such as:

  • Federated identity currencies.
  • Edge-based cryptographic tokens.
  • Data clean rooms.
  • Open-source ID methods.

These solutions have been deployed by publishers, reviewed by regulators, and integrated into demand-side platform buying tools, while Privacy Sandbox is reverting from closed beta to “in development.” Even better news: With cookie-based addressability still lingering, marketers can test the efficacy of new strategies against the cookie-based status quo.

Consumers and regulators are by no means locked into the current state of things and are more likely to react slowly than very quickly. With no deadline, no clear future state, limited guidance from regulators, and zero leadership from big tech, it’s more important than ever for advertisers and marketers to forge their own paths into the next stage of data privacy.

Check out our report on using Google’s and Apple’s privacy tech for ads, and request a guidance session to discuss your data deprecation strategy.