A privacy first world: what the FLoC?

May 4, 2021
Datisan Analytics

A cookie-less future is nigh.

The landscape of online advertising is evolving and the shift towards a more privacy-focused ecosystem of marketing is dawning. 

It may feel that there’s no escaping the prying eye of the web today as location services, fingerprinting and cookies keep tabs on our every search; however Google has found a solution to monetise our browsing habits using a less invasive system. Google’s Privacy Sandbox project, announced by Chrome in August of 2019, aims to ‘build innovations that protect anonymity while still delivering results for advertisers and publishers’. Step one meant the phase-out of third-party cookies by the end of 2021 and introducing a less invasive advertising tool which is safer and more secure. 

Federated Learning of Cohorts, or FLoC, aims to protect the individual user’s identity and data while allowing publishers to continue to provide personalised, data-driven advertising.  An alternative to cookies, FLoC analyses your browsing behaviour to group you with like-minded people (a cohort). The individual user continues to experience targeted and relevant advertising whilst remaining shielded in a sea of similarity and anonymity. 

Google’s preliminary data shows that advertisers ‘can expect to see at least 95 per cent of the conversions per dollar spent when compared to cookie-based advertising’. Specific results will be dependent on the ‘strength of the clustering algorithm’ as Google calls it, and the specific cohort targeted. 

So, how will it work exactly? Chrome uses algorithms to assign an individual user a cohort ID based on the sites visited. For example, users who regularly search for real estate and puppy videos are grouped in one cohort and those who search for real estate and cars are sorted into another. 

Your cohort is calculated from your scrolling history over the past seven days, and comprises only a few thousand people at a time, allowing publishers to present advertising content which is specific enough to be relevant to the cohort but not as direct or invasive as individually tracked data. 

Chrome has begun trialling the technology in the United States, Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand and the Philippines so far and plans to go globally in the coming months. 

If you have blocked third-party cookies or disabled personalisation in your Google Ad settings, you won’t be included in the trial otherwise Google will use your Chrome login as the first step to include you.  

While it might seem counter-productive to provide advertisers with less specific evidence-based information, rising community awareness on the lack of privacy online is threatening the industry and blocked cookies are costing businesses revenue. 

FLoC is only one of the privacy preserving alternatives that Google is launching that will allow individuals the privacy we all desire while advertisers continue to gather data to inform marketing decisions.  

Source

Drop the Datisan team an email to discuss how best prepare for a cookie-less future.