How secure is your brokerage lead data?

How sure are you that your vendor isn’t leveraging on your brokerage lead data?

Google announced this year that it will eventually be putting an end to third-party cookies. This move has prompted the FCC to put a halt to Google’s hasty decision given Google already has enough first-party cookies to continue dominating and executing its advertising goals. However, the decision was only halted for two years, which means there’s still a lot of time for third-party cookies to capture your data.

The question then becomes: If you’re a brokerage with a website that’s generating leads for you, how sure are you that your vendor is not working with other partners to capitalize on your data? Ask your vendor who their partners are and where YOUR data is going. Chances are you may be a bit surprised at the answer.

But, first, let’s talk about the four types of cookies that help real estate agents sell more homes. The
first cookie (first-party cookie) lives on your website and is designed to help you track your users and
learn more about their web habits.

The second cookie (second-party cookie) was at one point in time a first-party cookie, but was legally transferred to another owner, thus making it second class.

The third cookie (third-party cookie) is owned by someone that isn’t you, but also tracks your users, and stores — and probably shares — those user’s web habits with the highest bidder.

The last cookie is a sugar cookie, which creates the best smell in the world and statistically helps real estate agents do better at open houses.

Cookies, quite simply, are one of the most common ways to identify and track users in order to better
provide a web experience specifically curated for them based on their habits.

Here’s an example of how a cookie works: If you go to a website and place an item into a digital
shopping cart, the website is recognizing that your IP address is affiliated with this potential purchase.
Now, who owns the cookie will greatly determine your online experience the next time you go surfing on the web. Whoever owns the cookie, owns the user experience.

An example of how first-party cookies work can be similarly compared to a Saved Search Alert: If you go to to search for homes in South Lake Tahoe, California, and you build a search criteria to look for your dream home, that information is shared with an agent at Corcoran Global Living.

The brokerage and agent are now keenly aware that you are searching for a certain type of home in a certain market with extremely specific criteria outlining the home of your dreams. Since CGL wants to help you find your dream home, they’re not going to share that valuable brokerage lead data and user information with another brokerage.

A second-party cookie was once a first-party cookie: This cookie was owned by a brokerage, but that
brokerage was acquired by, let’s say a private equity firm, who is now the legal owner of the cookie, but
who also recently acquired a moving company. That real estate brokerage cookie suddenly becomes very valuable.

Now, if this were a third-party cookie scenario, we’d be seeing something totally different. If another
site was capable of capturing your search criteria, that third-party would then potentially sell that Saved
Search to any brokerage, or the highest-paying brokerage, to target you so you would work with

Third-party cookies have also been used for retargeting. An entire industry has been built off this
idea alone! Companies like AdRoll, PerfectAudience, Facebook, and more. Someone is out there
capturing your data on someone else’s website, then selling that data to whomever wants it the most.
Wild, right?

As much as we complain about privacy, the reality is that someone has been watching us this whole time, tracking our whereabouts, and selling it to the highest bidder.

Seems logical that you’d want to own your data, right?

As we continue to see consolidation across the real estate industry, especially with the influx of private
equity firms gobbling up (cookie pun? Anyone?) real estate companies left and right, we’re beginning to
also see the consolidation of the world’s most valuable asset: Data. And when this data is in the wrong
hands, it can be used in an extremely dangerous way. This we’re already seeing with the consolidation
of real estate companies – where does your data live now?

As Google continues its fight to rid the world of third-party cookies, it’s more important than ever to be
in control of your data.

Question your vendors.

Question your partners.

Find out where your data currently is, has been, and, contractually, might be going.

Oh, and don’t forget the sugar cookie. You might need something sweet with all this sour.