'First-Party' Trackers, And How Tech Companies Can Still Track People In A Different Perspective

For more than many years, digital businesses relied on what is known as "third party" tracking.

Companies like Alphabet's Google and Meta deployed such technology to track and trail people everywhere they go online.

From whatever users scrolled through on Instagram, to what they browsed on the web, and to the many apps users may have installed on their phones, Google and Meta were likely already there. Tech companies have the ability to know more than they have to, because their influence has influenced many others to use their trackers.

These trackers are used to track users, usually for advertising purposes.

Embedded in websites and apps, Google and Meta's trackers can be used by to benefit the developers of the websites and apps themselves, as well as benefiting both Google and Meta.

Thing were looking good for the tech giants and practically everyone else in the online advertising business, until eventually people started to realize how invasive these tech companies can be and have become.


Then, it was Apple, another tech company but the one that doesn't really care about tracking people, announced a way to block tech companies' invasive tracking.

Since iOS 14.5, Apple's App Tracking Transparency has changed the advertising game. Since then, it's no secret that Apple's privacy changes started affecting many marketers' and advertisers' revenue.

Apple disrupted the industry, and made everyone else in the business scrambled.

Realizing that Apple, as well as other tracker- and ad-blockers, and many other privacy tools are picking up their userbase, many marketers started having a hard time due to the fact that the technologies obscure many of the actions and behaviors that constitute the rich behavioral user data.

Because third-party tracking has been scaled back, and after the introduction of laws like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and ePrivacy, marketers were increasingly worried.

Subsequently, tech companies started deploying "first party" trackers.

First-party trackers are those trackers that are created and deployed by the host domain, the domain which the user is using.

Unlike third-party trackers that are created by domains other than the one the developers own, hence the name third-party, first party trackers are stored by the app or website's domain.

For example, apps and websites may use their own trackers hosted inside their own website.com, rather than third-party trackers like ad.doubleclick.net from Google. The reason ad.doubleclick.net is called a third-party tracker is because its URL doesn’t match the domain website.com.

Read: Google And Facebook Partner To Circumvent Apple's Privacy Approach

First-party cookies are generally considered to be positive for everyone involved in the browsing experience.

For example, first-party trackers are often used to provide a better user experience. First-party cookies also allow browsers to store key pieces of user information, allowing it to remember language preferences, user names, and passwords.

First-party cookies are also often used to communicate user data with e-commerce sites, allowing them to store items users have put in their shopping carts as well as their browsing history.

Because of these reasons, first-party trackers are generally considered good.

As a result, blockers may not block these trackers.

Cookie-less Chrome

Tech companies that began to realize this, were able to tweak the purpose of their first-party trackers, to at least do some of the things in a third-party context.

For example, some may tweak their first-party trackers to be used to track users in the same way as third-party cookies in specific contexts.

For more than many years, tech companies have used trackers and cookies in their online advertising campaign by tracking website visitors and collect analytics data for ad targeting.

It's only because web servers have no innate ability to track users, trackers exist not only to allow marketers to analyze visitors’ behavior, but also to remember this information so that web users don’t have to perform tasks repeatedly, making for a better user experience.

Third-party cookies have been the cornerstone of online advertising.

But with third-party invasive tracking has been scaled back, marketers and publishers adapt their advertising strategies in th