Cookieless tracking & Affiliate Marketing - women browsing on mobileCookieless tracking continues to be a topic dominating the industry, and the conversation certainly isn’t going away any time soon. As consumer concerns over privacy and how their personal data is used increases, Apple has rolled out its iOS 14.5 update, including updates to its App Tracking Transparency framework.

While there are still many unknowns about how these updates will impact advertising, the good news for advertisers and publishers is that affiliate marketing is well-positioned to navigate the challenges presented.

To further assist our clients and partners in understanding the changes taking place, we spoke to our Rakuten Advertising experts, who took us back to basics.

First-party vs Third-party Cookies:

A cookie is a text file that a web browser stores on a user’s machine and is used to track information about a user. First-party cookies are created by the site being visited and used to track the activity of a user within a single website. First-party cookies are used as the ‘remember me’ functionality or to track items in a shopping cart.

Third-party cookies are created by content embedded on the site being visited and used to track a user’s activity across multiple websites. Examples of third-party cookies include User ID or cookie syncing or tracking what a user saw or if they clicked on an advertisement.

What changes to tracking are taking place?


Cookieless is the gradual decline of browser support for third-party cookies. The industry first started to see changes to cookieless tracking in 2017 when Apple began implementing their Safari Intelligent Tracking Prevention technology (ITP). Firefox followed in 2018 with its Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP), and Microsoft released Edge Tracking Prevention in 2019. And looking to the future, Google has announced that Chrome will block third party cookies in 2022.

First-party data is vital for advertisers in mitigating the challenges presented by cookieless. The existing methods don’t block server-side data. As a result, Rakuten Advertising strongly recommends that advertisers create a deeper integration by setting Rakuten Advertising cookies server-side, an update compatible with EWS and Performance Tag Solutions.

Rakuten Advertising’s Director of Product Management, Aaron Contawe recently stated: “We offer different options to integrate with different versions according to the tracking structures customers have in place. Most companies are moving ahead with server-side integrations. Within those, there are different customisations and flavours that they use to fit their needs and tailor the type of integration and features they want to use.”

iOS 14.5:

Following the rollout of iOS 14.5, App Developers must collect the user’s permission through the App Tracking Transparency framework to track a user. Through this update, Apple now also requires App Developers to list data they use to track users, an update that applies to SDKs used by the app.

It’s important to note that the current updates show little to no impact for publishers that drive traffic from their app to an advertiser’s mobile website. Similarly, there is no impact for publishers that drives traffic to an advertisers mobile website from within their app via a webview.

While some users will opt-out of being tracked, it is still important that advertisers enable in-app tracking to ensure they’re capturing the full activity of the users that opt-in. These insights provide a complete view of performance for affiliate programmes and allow advertisers to fully optimise their campaigns and activity.

There are multiple options for enabling affiliate tracking within an advertisers app:

  1. Leverage integrations with 3rd party SDKs
  2. Implement the Rakuten SDK
  3. Implement EWS-like tracking with the advertiser’s app

Being prepared is key to success for both advertisers and publishers in the ever-changing world of cookieless tracking and increased privacy compliance. Ensure your brand is using robust tracking solutions to overcome growing challenges. Visit or speak to your account representative.