FLoC cookie alternative trials begin in Chrome

Google is rolling out its Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) and the trials are underway in Chrome.

FLoC was designed to be an alternative to advertising cookies, the kind that companies use to track you online.

While other browsers block third-party cookies by default, this is not the case for Chrome, as Google feels that doing so without offering a viable alternative is not the correct path to take.

Instead of placing a personally identifiable cookie on your device, the FLoC technology analyses your browsing behaviour on a local level.

Based on the results of the analysis, every user is placed into a cohort of people who share similar interests (your browsing history is not shared with Google).

This allows advertisers to display relevant ads based on your interests without being able to identify anyone personally.

Google plans to expand FLoC globally, but in the meantime, trials are limited to the following countries:

  • Japan
  • Mexico
  • The US
  • Brazil
  • The Philippines
  • Australia
  • Indonesia
  • Canada
  • India

Due to GDPR-related concerns, Google is not planning to include Europe, as it is not clear whether a FLoC ID is considered personal data.

Users are able to opt out if they do not wish to participate in the trials.

Although Google has said that marketing conversions should be at least 95% the same as before in terms of return per dollar spent, not all advertisers are on board with the idea.

Privacy advocates have also voiced their concerns as FLoC would make fingerprinting an easier task.

Google is addressing these concerns with its Privacy Budget proposal, but we are yet to see how this turns out in practice.

FLoC is still under development – the lessons learned from the trials will play a vital role in shaping its course.