Nielsen Ups Web Data Tracking Prowess, Safeguards

Nielsen July 27 announced it would no longer use third-party cookies to monitor users’ digital content consumption. With its new approach to measuring authenticated and unauthenticated web traffic, Nielsen said it would become the leading platform to validate first-party server data with real consumer behavior.

Third-party cookie deprecation is fundamentally changing the advertising ecosystem, according to Nielsen. Combined with the deterioration of other digital identifiers, there’s greater emphasis on first-party data, which provides a good understanding of online users’ unique habits, from website browsing to app usage. As a result, every publisher and brand has been challenged to develop its own first-party data strategy and leverage other data signals when identity is not directly attributable to an ad impression.

The transition comes just days after the legacy TV rating firm said it suffered an “unexpected disruption” to its data tracking it said was caused by a cyber attack.

“If the industry has learned anything since the rise of cookies, it’s that digital media measurement must remain scalable, flexible and useful,” Mainak Mazumdar, chief data officer at Nielsen, said in a statement. “Our new approach to measuring authenticated and unauthenticated digital traffic will enable us to scale across channels and platforms to ensure a comprehensive view of success and uncover areas for optimization.”

The market for digital distribution and advertising evolves, Nielsen contends digital traffic will ultimately move into two distinct categories for measurement following the deprecation of digital identifiers:

  • Authenticated: Traffic with identifiers on properties which have logged in environments or consented devices. To measure authenticated traffic, Nielsen will leverage all available identifiers and first-party data from participating clients, such as hashed email addresses, Unified ID 2.0 and select, verified self-reported demographic labels. This will ensure interoperability in the ad ecosystem, including with walled gardens, and simplify measurement for clients by reducing reliance on third parties.
  • Unauthenticated: Logged out traffic or traffic on properties that do not have logged in environments or where no alternative identifiers can be provided. To measure anonymous traffic, Nielsen has developed a machine learning technique with  additional contextual data signals including time, browser, content and device information.


As Nielsen continues to evolve its technologies and methodologies for independent measurement of audiences and outcomes, it has identified a five-pronged approach to measuring authenticated and unauthenticated web traffic.

  1. Interoperability: As digital identity continues to fragment, Nielsen’s use of a diverse set of identifiers and first-party data provided by clients, such as hashed email addresses, Unified ID 2.0 and verified self-reported demographic labels  will ensure interoperability in the ad ecosystem to manage future changes with agility and to simplify measurement for clients.
  2. Comparability: In the absence of alternate identifiers or first-party data, Nielsen claims it is able to provide comparability with its common measurement framework and data science across platforms and publishers. For instance, Nielsen will use time, browser and other metadata within its people-based panel to determine demographic assignments for unauthenticated audience and outcomes measurement.
  3. Persistence: Nielsen is transitioning from an identity backbone to so-called “stable identifiers” that remain consistent over time, offering measurement that is tied to actual people and households.
  4. Confidentiality: With new, confidential computing technologies, Nielsen hopes to bring more assurances of data confidentiality to audience and outcomes measurement. Proprietary confidential computing technologies enable Nielsen to run a wide variety of analytics applications, delivering faster and more flexible custom analytics capabilities to clients.

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