December 6, 2021

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Are You Ready To Join A Cohort? Google Releases FLoC via @RebekahDunne

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With Mozilla’s Total Cookie Protection and DuckDuckGo’s additional privacy protections, we’ve been waiting to see how Google responds to calls for more privacy while browsing.

Some internet users don’t like the idea of their data being collected and used. In contrast, advertisers rely on information from third-parties to serve personalized ads to an audience to increase the likelihood of conversion.

Privacy and personalization.

How is Google going to balance the two?

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In January 2021, Susan Wenograd discussed Federated Leaning of Cohorts, or ‘FLoC,’ Google’s latest technology to replace cookie collection on Chrome and part of its Privacy Sandbox initiative.

“FLoC is a new approach to interest-based advertising that both improves privacy and gives publishers a tool they need for viable advertising business models.”

Today, it is released into the wild.

Or at least a trial of it.

The cookie alternative will be made available to a small percentage of users in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Mexico, Japan, India, Indonesia, Canada, and Brazil, with global expansion plans.

Users in these countries who want to participate in the trial will have to unblock third-party cookies in Chrome if they have previously set this up.

Anyone who doesn’t want to be involved can opt-out from April using their Chrome settings.

FLoC’s Privacy Protections

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Instead of advertising to individuals, publishers will advertise to cohorts, a group of internet surfers sharing similar browsing histories.

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As internet users continue to move about online, their cohort will change based on their activities.

How Is This Different To The Previous Process?

Instead of publishers being able to ‘follow’ people as they jump from website to website, a person’s browser history is held by FLoC and isn’t shared with anybody, not even Google.

The tool should bring a little more equilibrium, as everybody, including Google’s advertising products, has the same level of access.

Cohort Eligibility

A cohort will not be eligible to be advertised to if it includes a history of visiting sites with sensitive topics at a high rate.

This seems to apply to websites that publishers were already restricted from using as part of personalized advertising.

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Therefore, cohorts regularly visiting websites that fall into the following categories will not be eligible for publishers to access:

  • Personal hardships.
  • Identity and belief.
  • Sexual interest.
  • Access to opportunities.

Google Launches Privacy Sandbox Website

Google has also launched a website offering information about the initiatives it’s looking into to provide service users peace of mind regarding their privacy.

Current initiatives include:

  • Preventing tracking while browsing the internet.
  • Preserving the open web.
  • Helping publishers build sites that respect user privacy.

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If you’re a publisher, advertiser, developer, or part of an ad tech company, you are invited to contribute to the discussion.

Despite the launch, FLoC is still in development and could evolve based on user experience and feedback.

The full announcement can be found here.
Visit Google’s Privacy Sandbox website here.

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