016 Get the FLoC Outta Here

In this episode, we talked about the death of third-party cookies, Google’s alternative, FLoC and why people dislike it. We’ll teach you what to do instead by embracing first-party data and permission-based marketing. 

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Episode Notes:

Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) is a new kind of ad-targeting technology that is meant to be less invasive that your usual browser cookies. In this episode, we talked about everything you need to know about FLoC and how it can impact your ad campaigns.

Back in 2020, Google announced that it will no longer support third-party cookies by early 2022. As such, the search engine giant started testing the FLoC technology as a replacement. But can it really solve internet users’ privacy issues?

Once the ad-targeting technology is implemented, what would that mean for advertisers?

How Browser Cookies Work

When you go to a website, they create a cookie for your browser. These small text files hold your username and password. So that the website can identify who owns the computer or who the user is. It would also identify if you’ve been to that website or not.

The most common cookie is called first-party cookies. These are used to identify website visitors and to enhance their browsing experience.

Browser cookies are harmless and they can’t infect your computer with any sort of viruses and malware. However, there are some people who can hijack your cookies, granting them access to your browsing activities. This includes spying on websites you are browsing, the files you share, and more.

First-Party vs. Third-Party Cookies

A first-party cookie is created directly from the website you’re visiting. Such browser cookies are safer as long as the website you’re visiting is reputable and uncompromised.

On the other hand, third-party cookies are more dangerous. They are created by another website and placed on the site you are browsing. This often occurs when the website you’re visiting has ads.

When you’re in a page where there are 10 ads, chances are the third-party cookies may already have created 10 cookies. It doesn’t matter whether you clicked on those ads or not.

Third-party cookies are used by advertisers or analytic companies to a site visitor’s browsing history. Doing so can give them an idea of what the visitor’s interests are. 

FLoC: Alternative to Third-Party Cookies?

Floc or Federal Learning of Cohorts is Google’s alternative third-party cookie.

They gather data from a group of internet users (also known as Cohorts) with the same interest instead of tracking their browning history. That way, they can provide more relevant ads.

For example, if a group of internet users have searched for car rentals, then this alternative third-party cookie will gather some information and it will start displaying ads about car rentals.

We can’t really say for sure that FLoC is a great idea when it comes to data privacy. Although it’s not as bad as third-party cookies as they say. But the point is that they’re still invading our privacy. Therefore, it’s still not the best solution.  

FLoC: Browser Data, and Online Ads

So, what’s the difference between FLoC and the third-party cookies?

As we mentioned earlier, third-party cookies track an individual’s browsing activities. FLoC, on the other hand, collects the data from a cohort’s interest.

Following Google’s announcement that they will stop supporting third-party cookies by early 2022, they developed FLoC as an alternative. It’s safer since they’ll be only collecting the cohort’s interest. Another good thing about FLoC is that they won’t take other personal 

information such as the user’s email address, password, and IP address.

Browser Cookies and Data Privacy

FLoC’s method doesn’t involve tracking an individual’s browsing activity. Instead, it’s a machine that learns what a group of users are interested in based on the websites they visit.

In addition, each user is assigned with a FLoC ID, which is updated every week. Nonetheless, the ID serves as a persistent identifier that can be used for filtering.

Solving Data Privacy Issues

FLoC may sound scary but there are ways to prevent it by using other browsers that don’t support FLoC. This includes Mozilla FireFox, Safari, Brave, and Microsoft Edge.

Brave stated that FLoC can materially harm the user’s privacy under the guise of being privacy friendly. Meanwhile, Vivaldi says that they will not support FLoC API and they plan to disable it no matter how much it is implemented. They don’t believe that it can protect the privacy of the user and that it’s not beneficial for internet users.

As for Microsoft Edge, they said that it is a big test for Google’s proposed FLoC technology. In addition, if Microsoft does not support it, then Google is on its own in this project.

The Third-Party Cookie Era is Ending (Sort Of)

In 20 years someone’s going to have a laugh when they talk about what people shared. The digital world that we know is sort of ending — it’s almost over anyway.

We’ll see a lot of other big players who are fighting for a better long-term solution. One that can protect user privacy while allowing advertisers to show interest based ads.

They said marketers have been fat and lazy, but eating all those third party cookies. Now it’s time to work out and start.

As a marketer, you need to prepare for the world without third-party cookies. What you need is a future-proof and long-term solution like having a deeper and better relationship with your customer base. Another is collecting data from them directly and making sure that this is the data that they want to share with you.

How can you do that?

Build a strong trustworthy brand. So much so that users would want to share their information with you for better customer experience. Do the right thing and go back to basics of getting to know your website visitors.


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