How Google Is Changing Online Advertising In A Big Way With FLoC

4 mins read

Google intends to change how sites show online advertisements in a big way. If Google decides to implement this, websites will not be able to use third-party cookies – ones that they receive from other domains. The change will make it difficult for advertisers to track your web activities, thereby hurting their ability to serve targeted ads.

Firefox and Safari have already blocked the use of cookies on their browsers. However, Google’s Chrome browser has the largest market share in web browsing, and Google is the biggest player in online ads. All this means that Google’s decision could fundamentally impact how ads are served on the internet as a whole.

Google says that it intends to make browsing more secure and private while retaining its position as the go-to place for advertising. Google wants to do this by replacing third-party cookie tracking with a new technology named ‘FLoC’. It allows ad companies to target specific demographics such as age and location while keeping the people anonymous.

Here’s a bit more about how it works.

How does Federated Learning Of Cohorts(FLoC) work

Source: The Cyber Security News

FLoC will assign you with a ‘cohort’ that includes other users with similar interests as you. Advertisers can then curate ads specifically for the cohort you’re in and serve ads that have some semblance of personalization. It means that your identity will remain semi-anonymous, and advertisers won’t know anything specific about you.

In other words, Chrome will create a large number of ‘cohorts’ containing groups of people who share the same interests and qualities. Chrome will then tell a site what cohort you belong to, and based on that the website will show you ads created specifically for that cohort. This ensures that advertisers have no way of learning about an individual’s browsing history.

For instance, say you’re part of a cohort-8639 that groups people interested in music production and gaming. Chrome will tell the website that you belong to cohort 8639, and the website will then show you ads made for that cohort. This way specific details of an individual remain private since advertisers can only provide ads based on the cohort.

What is the Initial Reception to FLoC

Source: 9to5Google

Google intends to replace the traditional cookie tracking system with FLoC by 2022. However, many advertisers and community members think that FLoC will create a new set of problems that could be just as harmful as the ones created by original third party cookie system.

Bennett Cyphers of Electronic Frontier Foundation argues that “The technology will avoid the privacy risks of third-party cookies, but it will create new ones in the process. It may also exacerbate many of the worst non-privacy problems with behavioral ads, including discrimination and predatory targeting.”

We’re yet to see how Google will tackle this issue and come up with a solution that doesn’t group people who have sensitive or discriminatory interests together.