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As the Digital Markets Act’s compliance deadline arrives, is your house in order?

By Tom Carter, Technology Business Director

Space & Time

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March 5, 2024 | 6 min read

The compliance deadline for big tech “gatekeepers” under the EU’s landmark Digital Markets Act is tomorrow, March 6. Space & Time’s Tom Carter outlines what’s changed and how to keep up.

A view of earth from space, its communication networks lit up like cracks in a painted-over lightbulb

2024 is a major year for privacy changes online. Are you ready for the latest changes? / Nasa via Unsplash

User privacy considerations are firmly in the spotlight right now as businesses attempt to get to grips with current best practice.

2024 has already brought some high-profile goings on around privacy, including the UK Information Commissioner’s Office’s continuing intervention in making sure websites are compliant with privacy regulations. And Google has outlined its ‘compliance solutions’ as a gatekeeper under the Digital Markets Act (DMA).

The requirement for gatekeepers to comply with the DMA comes into effect this month in Europe. There’s a likelihood of similar practices being adopted in the UK and elsewhere before long.

Consent is everything

In support of stronger consumer privacy protections, one of the changes Google will apply is making Consent Mode implementation for Google analytics and ad platform cookies via your Consent Management Platform a requirement for advertising activity to run as normal.

Consent Mode is a solution that allows Google tags – for Google Ads, Floodlights (Programmatic / DV360 activity) and Analytics to react to users’ cookie preferences. A website ideally needs a consent management platform (such as OneTrust or CookieBot) in place that is already dealing with preventing tags for measurement and targeting from firing if a user opts out of tracking.

As well as ensuring Google tags are privacy-compliant in their use of cookies, Consent Mode uses some additional tags that allow Google to continue to collect interaction data while respecting user choice not to be tracked. The key is not being able to identify an individual user and not storing any identifiable information. As an example, having consent mode in place means that you can still track conversions from ad campaigns based on aggregated and modeled data, rather than just blocking everything.

There is an updated version of consent mode (V2) that makes it essential to get explicit user permission for what Google’s ad platform cookies can do – so split into storage, ad targeting and personalization. Thus, even if Consent Mode was originally set up to current best practice, there’s potentially the need to update the tags that trigger those first-party cookies based on user selections and ensure Consent Management Platform and cookie policies are updated accordingly.

Tag management takes center stage

When checking that consent mode is correctly in place – adhering to user consent for Google products and benefitting from the data infilling capability it provides – it makes complete sense to generally audit your website tag management tools. Ensuring tags for other non-Google platforms aren’t dropping cookies users have explicitly requested to block is one crucial thing, but it’s also a good opportunity to understand if full use is being made of tracking user engagement; especially with web and app analytics given the enhanced flexibility of data collection and reporting Google Analytics 4 provides, for example.

With Google also amid a renewed effort to block third-party cookies in Chrome (with over 60% market share for browsers) by the end of 2024, collecting and transferring first-party data in a privacy-first and secure manner to help understand audiences for reporting, targeting and optimization is growing in importance for effective marketing.

Alongside Google Analytics 4 onboarding and increasing focus on user privacy for websites and apps, Google Tag Manager has never had greater significance to reporting, audience and insight generation output than it does now. Despite its prominence as the tag management platform of choice for most websites, the efficiencies and benefits it can deliver for businesses’ marketing efforts are still remarkably overlooked. Expect a busy year of helping to bridge this gap for clients.

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