Google has put out a new project called Privacy Sandbox. This project includes the much-discussed new tracking method Google FloC. Not everyone is happy with Google's new tracking alternative. On various online blogs you can read headlines such as: "EFF: Google alternative to tracking cookies terrible idea." & "Google FloC: a blessing or a curse for the internet?" But also: "GitHub blocks new tracking method Google FloC by default" and "WordPress will block the tracking method Google FloC by default." So, we can say that there is an uproar in the online world. So, what's going on then? What is Google FloC and why does the EFF (the Electronic Frontier Foundation - a non-profit organization that advocate for digital privacy, freedom of speech and innovation) say it is against Google's alternative to tracking cookies? This article explains everything.

What is Google FloC?

Google FloC means Google Federated Learning of Cohorts and stands for a new method for advertising. This form of cookie-free advertising is based on the interest of the user, while the privacy of users is protected. In Google's new tracking method, Chrome users are placed in a cohort (group) based on their browsing behavior. Advertisers can then show their ad to a specific cohort.

Google Floc is part of Google's new project called Privacy Sandbox. The aim of this project is to ensure anonymity of user data and also give advertisers the possibility to continue to "communicate" (data tracking) with online platforms by means of APIs (these are software programs that allow two applications to communicate with each other). Tracking user data is currently still done with the infamous cookies.

Third Party Cookies

Cookies are files that a website puts on your phone or computer during a visit to the website. These are usually functional cookies that are necessary for the website to work properly. The site will not work optimally without these cookies. But you also have another kind of cookies. Advertisers use so-called third party cookies, and these work slightly differently from functional cookies.

Third Party Cookies are files that third parties place on your computer or phone when you visit a website. These cookies come from advertisers, tracking services and Analytics. Online advertising is one of the best known third party cookies. By adding their tags to the website - tags that either display or don't display ads, advertisers can track which websites users visit. By means of third party cookies data is collected from users and it is determined which advertisements are shown to which users.

What does Google FloC do?

While third-party cookies use tags to collect data, Google FloC looks at the user's browser history. The difference is in the method of collecting the user data, measuring user interaction and showing advertisements to users. Machine Learning places the user in a cohort based on his or her interests, derived from their browsing history and browsing habits. Cohorts with users of the same surfing behaviour can be used as an alternative to third party cookies because with relevant content you can target advertisements to a certain cohort, based on interests. As a user, you will be labeled according to your browser history and placed in a group with other users who share the same interests. Many critics find this tracking alternative to be harmful because Google can use this collected data to create personal profiles of users. Therefore, this new way of collecting data entails privacy risks.

The problem

The biggest problem is the way internet users have control over their data and data. With cookies, users could indicate which cookies they wanted to turn on or off. This way you can limit the amount of cookies to only the necessary functional cookies. With Google FloC, this process is still vague. Google says that advertisers only see a cohort, but that your data is still stored by the browsers. The GDPR legislation or the AVG says that providers of internet products should never store data without the user's knowledge and that the user should always be given the option to delete his or her data.

The reaction

DuckDuckGo has already completely banned FloC from its search engine and also GitHub, Microsoft Edge and the CMS system WordPress say they do not want to work with FloC. In addition, Google cannot yet disable the new tracking method in Europe because FloC in its current form does not yet comply with the GDPR legislation or the AVG that concerns the protection of user data. The GDPR also indicated that it was starting an investigation into this new system and whether it strengthened Google's market position.

The Dare Company is keeping an eye on developments around Google’s new tracking method. For the online marketer, the new tracking alternative sounds like music to their ears. This way they can continue to target based on interests and the privacy of the user remains protected. It remains to be seen whether this method will work out like this in practice. Do you need help with tracking your users and generating conversions? Feel free to contact one of our specialists now!