Google today announced that it is rolling out Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), a crucial part of itsproject for Chrome, as a developer origin trial. FLoC is meant to be an that advertising technology companies use today to track you across the web.
Instead of a personally-identifiable cookie, FLoC runs locally. It analyzes your browsing behavior to group you into a cohort of like-minded people with similar interests (and doesn’t share your browsing history with Google). That cohort is specific enough to allow advertisers to do their thing and show you relevant ads without being so clear as to enable marketers to.
This “interest-based advertising,” as Google calls it, allows you towith similar interests. All the browser displays is a cohort ID, and all your browsing history and other data stay locally.
The trial will start in the U.S., Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, and the Philippines. Over time,. As we learned earlier this month, because of concerns around GDPR and other privacy regulations (partly because it’s unclear whether FLoC IDs should be considered personal data under these regulations).
Users can opt out of this origin trial, just like they will do with all other Privacy Sandbox trials. Unsurprisingly, given how FLoC upends many of the existing online advertising systems in place, not everybody loves this idea. Advertisers love the idea of being able to target individual users. However, shows that using these cohorts leads to similar results for them and that advertisers can expect “at least 95% of the conversions per dollar spent when compared to cookie-based advertising.”
marketing companies that want to fingerprint users based on the various FLoC IDs they expose. That’s something Google addresses with its Privacy Budget proposal, but how well that will to be seen.will get the same access to FLoC IDs as its competitors in the ads ecosystem. But it’s not just the advertising industry eyeing this project skeptically. Privacy advocates aren’t entirely sold on the idea either. The EFF, for example, argues that FLoC will make it easier for
Meanwhile,without seeing ads (no matter what the advertising industry may want us to believe) and without worrying about their privacy. But online publishers continue to rely on advertising income to fund their sites.
With these divergent interests, it was always clear that Google’s initiatives wouldn’t please everyone. That friction was always built into the process. And while otheroutright, Google’s role in the advertising ecosystem makes this a bit more complicated.
“When other browsers started blocking third-party cookies by default, we were excited about the direction but worried about the immediate impact,” Marshall Vale, Google’s product manager for Privacy Sandbox, writes in today’s announcement. “Excited because we need a more private web, and we knowaren’t the long-term answer.
Worried because today, many publishers rely on cookie-based advertising to support their content efforts, we had seen that cookie blocking was already spawning privacy-invasive workarounds (such as fingerprinting) that were even worse for. Overall, we felt that blocking third-party cookies outright without viable alternatives for the ecosystem was irresponsible, and even harmful, to the free and open web we all enjoy.”
sandbox initiatives are still under development. The the idea is to learn from these initial trials and evolve the project accordingly.