Google has offered some more details about its new tracking alternative to third-party cookies. The search giant assures that “Federated Learning of Cohorts” (FLoC) is a privacy-first technology that could put an end to the mass-trading of an individual’s internet browsing data.
Google has claimed that new tests for FLoC are showing promising signs. The company intends to replace the decades-old “Cookies” that hold internet browsing history. Needless to add, Cookies have earned a bad reputation, and internet companies are trying hard to find a viable replacement.
Why does Google want to replace Cookies?
Cookies are small bits of information that reside on internet users’ computers. Websites and internet-based services have access to these Cookies, but they cannot collect them.
As amply evident from the past, internet companies crave Cookies. These are tiny bits of user data that companies collect indirectly from users via browsers or websites.
Needless to mention, there’s a massive market for Cookies. In fact, there are online Data Exchanges that deal with the buying and selling of Cookies.
$GOOG: FLoC(s) are the new Cookies?
— Avik M (@avikXm) January 25, 2021
As expected, there are many privacy concerns about Cookies. Incidentally, Google isn’t the only company trying to introduce a better alternative. Companies like Apple are making it harder to track individual user data online.
Several countries too are fighting tech giants about the massive volumes of user data and information they collect, store, and use. Incidentally, Cookies are a big part of the entire digital ad ecosystem, estimated to be worth $330 billion USD globally.
Surprisingly, Google claims with FLoC, advertisers can expect to see at least 95 percent of the conversions per dollar spent on ads when compared to cookie-based advertising. In other words, the company is also looking at the economics of advertising.
How does Google FLoC work?
Google is calling the technology “Federated Learning of Cohorts” or FLoC. The search giant assures FLoC is far less invasive and revealing than Cookies.
Interestingly, Google’s Chrome web browser, Apple, Mozilla, etc. have introduced several privacy-focused changes to their products. Collectively, the companies are heading towards a Cookies-free internet.
However, without user data and information, advertising becomes much less effective. Hence Google has proposed FLoC.
Google’s alternative to third-party cookies open for advertiser testing in Q2 2021: Google claims FLoC will protect the privacy of users while providing advertisers with needed attribution data. Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article. https://t.co/xp4u8F2d8K pic.twitter.com/ha7fPYDCK4
— Krisztina P – catSEO (@r_krisztin) January 25, 2021
FLoC is essentially an API (Application Programming Interface) that could replace Cookies. Currently, the API is part of Google Chrome as an extension.
The inner workings of FLoC are complicated. Basically, FLoC would place a large group of people with similar interests inside specific groups. The API would need people’s “inferred interests”.
Any user-specific data will remain on the users’ computers. Companies will not have direct access to the same. Instead, advertisers would get access to the groups or FLoCs.
Essentially, Google FLoC appears to be a method that collates and aggregates information about interests. However, it then ensures personal-identifiable markers are obscured. The information would mainly consist of semi-anonymized groups.
Google says it may have found a privacy-friendly substitute to cookies https://t.co/X4khitMXi5
Conveniently, this solution also means Google *alone* will own access to this data, so no other ad platform can ever compete against them 😒 pic.twitter.com/RwIzlfpHVq
— Rand Fishkin (@randfish) January 25, 2021
It is important to note that Google doesn’t intend to eliminate all Cookies. Critical Cookies, such as tokens that remember logins for frequently-visited sites, will remain functional.
It is, however, concerning that Google still reportedly insists on having access to user data. The search giant will pass this data through the API to anonymize the information.
Moreover, FLoC isn’t the perfect solution. It will still need browsers to have security and privacy measures that limit access to any data-gathering platforms.