Google Consent Mode v2: January 2024 Privacy Updates

What is Google Consent Mode V2?

Definition and Purpose

Google Consent Mode V2 is an advanced tool developed by Google to enhance the alignment of websites with stringent data privacy regulations and user preferences. This tool is pivotal in communicating users’ cookie consent preferences to Google tags. It was initially introduced in 2020 to facilitate data collection for Google Analytics and Google Ads while adhering to EU data privacy laws, specifically the GDPR. The Version 2 update, set to align with the new Digital Markets Act effective from March 2024, underscores Google’s commitment to bolster user privacy and ensure standardised consent-based data insights.

Key Features

The updated Google Consent Mode V2 introduces significant enhancements, including two new parameters: ad_user_data and ad_personalization. These additions are designed to provide users with greater control over their data, ensuring that personal information is transmitted to Google services only with explicit user consent. These parameters complement the existing analytics_storage and ad_storage settings, forming a robust framework that supports compliance with digital advertising and data privacy regulations, particularly in the European Economic Area (EEA).

Furthermore, Google Consent Mode V2 does not operate as a standalone solution for managing user consent or cookie compliance. Instead, it acts in conjunction with a Consent Management Platform (CMP) to ensure that Google tags and scripts function in accordance with users’ consent preferences. This integration allows for the effective modelling of user behaviour when consent is not given, thereby aiding in maintaining functional website performance and compliant data usage.

Complying with GDPR and Other Regulations

Google Consent Mode v2 is intricately designed to align with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and other stringent privacy laws such as the Digital Markets Act (DMA). Its implementation plays a crucial role in ensuring that businesses manage user data and consent in compliance with these regulations, thereby maintaining user trust and legal integrity.

Default Settings and Privacy by Default

The core functionality of Google Consent Mode v2 revolves around its ability to adjust Google services based on user consent. This adherence is critical for complying with GDPR’s mandates, which require explicit user consent before processing personal data. By default, Google Consent Mode ensures that no user data is transmitted to Google’s servers unless consent is explicitly granted. This ‘privacy by default’ setting is a fundamental principle of GDPR, aimed at protecting user data from being processed without consent.

Advanced vs. Basic Implementation

Businesses can choose between Basic and Advanced Consent Mode implementations based on their specific needs and the regulatory requirements they must meet. The Basic Consent Mode is straightforward; it blocks all Google tags until the user grants consent. This means no data is shared with Google platforms if the visitor does not accept cookies, aligning with the GDPR requirement that personal data should not be processed without clear consent.

On the other hand, Advanced Consent Mode allows for more nuanced data handling. Even if consent for certain cookies or data collection is not granted, this mode uses cookieless pings to model the behaviour of non-consented visitors. This method supports businesses in estimating conversions and understanding visitor behaviour without breaching GDPR stipulations.

Implementing either mode requires careful configuration and integration with a Consent Management Platform (CMP). This platform is essential for capturing and managing user consent, ensuring that all data collection practices are transparent and comply with legal standards. Businesses must ensure that their CMPs are robust and configured correctly to interface effectively with Google Consent Mode v2, thereby solidifying their compliance with GDPR and enhancing their capability to manage user data responsibly.

Impact on Google Ads and Google Analytics

Data Collection and Ad Personalisation

The introduction of Google Consent Mode v2 significantly alters the landscape for Google Ads and Google Analytics (GA4), particularly in how user data is handled for ad personalisation. When users opt out of cookies, the ability to deliver personalised ads is notably compromised, presenting a challenge for marketers to engage effectively without infringing on privacy. This shift necessitates a strategic adjustment in targeting and measuring ad performance. Furthermore, GA4’s data collection capabilities are directly influenced by user consent. Restricted data due to lack of consent can lead to incomplete analytics, impacting the depth and reliability of insights.

To address these challenges, GA4 may increasingly rely on aggregated and anonymised data, which respects user privacy but offers a different level of insight. Additionally, Google introduces behavioural and conversion modelling to estimate user actions and preferences based on the data from consented users, using AI to model the behaviour and conversions of non-consented users.

Importance of User Consent

User consent has become a cornerstone in the operation of Google Ads and Analytics under Google Consent Mode v2. The system dynamically adapts the behaviour of analytics and ads tags based on user consent choices communicated from cookie banners or widgets. When consent is denied, these consent-aware tags do not store cookies but instead send cookieless pings or signals to Google servers. These include consent state pings for Google Ads and Floodlight tags, which communicate the default consent state configured and the updated state when consent changes.

The reliance on user consent not only aligns with privacy regulations but also affects the quality and detail of the analytics. For instance, GA4’s event-based model offers some flexibility but remains limited by consent restrictions, thus impacting the analytical depth. To mitigate data collection gaps, Google products use these pings to model metrics for measurement solutions, ensuring that even in the absence of complete data, some level of insight is maintained. This approach underscores the importance of implementing robust consent management practices to stay compliant while still capturing valuable user interactions data.

Steps to Implement Google Consent Mode V2

Using CMPs

To effectively implement Google Consent Mode V2, businesses are advised to utilise a Consent Management Platform (CMP). CMPs integrate seamlessly with Google Tag Manager, enabling the management of user consent preferences efficiently. These platforms offer templates that can be found in the Community Template Gallery, which facilitate the creation of tags specifically designed for managing consent modes. For those who prefer a more tailored approach, it is possible to create a custom consent mode template using Tag Manager Consent APIs. This allows for precise control over how consent information is communicated to Google, ensuring compliance with GDPR and other privacy regulations.

Updating Tag Configurations

Businesses must update their tag configurations to comply with the new requirements of Google Consent Mode V2. This involves sending two additional parameters: ad_user_data and ad_personalization, which control the sending of user data related to advertising and the personalisation of ads, respectively. Each parameter can be set to ‘granted’ or ‘denied’, depending on the user’s consent.

For sites using Google Tag Manager, it is recommended to load your own consent banner through the Tag Manager container. This approach ensures that all tags are managed centrally and are updated in real-time based on user interactions with the consent banner. Alternatively, if using gtag.js, ensure that the Google tag is installed on every page of your website and that the consent mode code is added accordingly.

2024 is also another turning point for digital marketing tracking and insight, as Chrome plans to phase out third-party cookies towards the end of the year. Consent mode offers a way to prepare and build solutions based on your consented first-party data and use of Google AI.