Google FLoC Internet Cookie Replacement Begins Global Trial, Here's What You Need To Know

google rolling out floc trials worldwide news
Earlier this year, Google announced the Federated Learning of Cohorts, or FLoC, which would improve user privacy around the web. While this has led to some scrutiny, such as a Department of Justice antitrust probe, it will hopefully bring a safe and responsible end to third-party cookies. The technology is now rolling out as part of a developer origin trial in Chrome.

First and foremost, the uninitiated among us may be asking, “What is a cookie and what does it have to do with a flock?” Cookies are the means by which a website can track user sessions or data, such that you stay logged when you leave a website and come back to it later. Third-party cookies are a subset of cookies in that rather than the website serving them, a third-party such as an advertiser deploys them to track user interests. This can be seen as an invasion of privacy, which is where FLoC comes into play.

flock google rolling out floc trials worldwide news
Flock? FLoC?

FLoC is part of an effort at Google to develop open-source “privacy-preserving technologies that make third-party cookies obsolete and enable publishers to keep growing their businesses and keep the web sustainable.” While still in development, FLoC provides key features which keep users information private:

Users are part of a crowd.
  • Rather than tracking the individual, users can remain anonymous across the web by presenting relevant ads to groups called cohorts. These groups are created and defined by similarities in browsing history between users, giving safety in numbers.

FLoC does not share browsing history.
  • FLoC is localized to the web browser itself in that your cohort is determined on your computer within your browser. This means data is not shared between websites or even large corporations.

Chrome browser will not create sensitive groups.
  • This is interesting, as it would be theoretically possible to create a group for people who visit many medical websites or routinely follow political or religious topics. This can be a sensitive topic and could also lead to something of an echo chamber of ads. Therefore, Google will not create a cohort for these topics and will not learn about what topics users were interested in.
While this sounds great, there is likely quite a bit of work left to do to have browsers and websites move away from third-party cookies. Either way, initial testing of FLoC will take place for select users in Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, and the U.S. Furthermore, this test will also expand to other regions globally as time goes on. Whether you are involved or not, let us know what you think of the FLoC in the comments below.