6 problems with Google’s FLoC (and 1 silver lining)

What's New in Publishing 09 Feb 2021 08:30

Last week Google caused a media storm by announcing that third-party cookies, which are due to be banned from Chrome in 2022, will be replaced with an AI system called Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC). FLoC is part of the Privacy Sandbox initiative, a family of privacy-enhancing technologies developed by Google aiming to move the ad-serving process to the browser.

FLoC is a super-tracker that monitors user activity across all sites, stores the information in the browser and then uses machine learning (ML) on the browser to place users into cohorts that share similar interests. This way, advertisers can target groups of people with similar interests without accessing any personal data. Moreover, according to Google’s own tests, FLoC achieves at least 95% of the conversions per dollar spent compared to cookie-based advertising. Publishers, advertisers, rejoice – salvation is near!

Beyond the headline, however, things get messier. At ID Ward, we assess each new cookieless solution from three angles: its ability to support effective marketing in the open web (the commercial angle), its compliance with privacy laws (the legal angle) and its effects on market openness and competitiveness (the competition angle). We ran the test on FLoC and here is what we found.

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