Last year, Google announced that it will eliminate cookies from its homemade browser, Chrome, by the beginning of 2022. The digital advertising industry reacted with shock. After all, Chrome is used by roughly 70 per cent of desktop users worldwide.
Last Friday, the Washington Post examined Google’s promise and its proposed replacement technology, Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLOC), in an article by tech reporter Gerrit De Vynck. De Vynck concluded that, while Google’s intentions may not be completely virtuous, the move away from cookie-based advertising still represents a modest step toward a more private internet. He framed the change as at least one part PR move, one part attack on Google’s competitors, and one part well-intentioned bid to shelter private user data.
“You can fix your public perception while at the same time cementing your own dominance and growing your market share,” AdProfs founder Ratko Vidakovic told De Vynck. “It seems like a no-brainer.”
FLOC is not a perfect technology from either a digital advertising or user privacy standpoint. Google suggests it will be 95 per cent as effective at reaching targeted users as the old, cookie-based system, but that has yet to be proven. And FLOC won’t stop users from being monitored, but rather change who’s doing the monitoring.
As internet users become increasingly aware of the scope of data monitoring and its impact on digital advertising, there will be more calls for regulation and limits to the tech giants’ advertising powers. Google’s decision to address cookie concerns without significantly impeding its advertising prowess, is both a strategic and ethical move.