So the tracking cookie is dying, slowly. Facebook, Google, and Apple are changing the way users are being tracked in both great and terrifying ways. New methods are able to track users across multiple devices and platforms. Here how they are doing it:
Facebook relies on its SSO (Single Sign-On) to follow the movement of users. SSO allows you to use your Facebook credentials on third-party websites and apps. When you do this, Facebook is watching, following, and cataloging your destination points, which obviously leads to targeting ads on the newsfeed.
Google also uses SSO technology. By logging into Google accounts users get tied up to the entire Google network, which is massive.
Then Android mobile operating system assigns each user a Google Ad ID. Many of Google’s ad products — AdSense, AdMob, and DoubleClick — pull in your device’s ad identifier. Together with the information it already has from its many web properties, including YouTube, Gmail, Voice, and Search, the company can compile a dossier of a digital history. This allows Google to categories websites and users for precise targeting.
Apple’s tracking techniques are focused primarily on two things: email address, which is tied to all of Apple’s services running on any iOS or OS X device, and iTunes account, which gives Apple credit card data and ties users most closely to its ecosystem.
Login identity is tied to Apple “identifier for advertisers,” or IDFA. It’s a unique string of characters assigned to every user buying and using an iOS device. So when ads run on Apple’s advertising network iAd for example, Apple is able to determine who’s receiving the ad, and potentially to connect that back to everything that person did elsewhere in Apple’s system.