8 March, 2021

On Monday Google reported that the new test results are showing very promising signs that cookie-based ad targeting will be soon successfully replaced. Google, Apple, and Mozilla have all recently introduced sweeping privacy changes that will collectively phase out cookies with the help of an internet tracking tool that tracks users’ web browsing history.

A quick catch-up for those, who are not aware of what the cookies are: Cookies are considered as third-party data or user data that is collected indirectly from users via browsers or websites. Third-party data is often bought and sold at scale via online data exchanges.

It is a massive challenge for everyone in the technology field to find a replacement for cookies considering the fact that the entire digital ad ecosystem, worth $330 billion USD globally, has been mostly built around cookies.

Google has been testing a new API software interface called Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) that effectively replaces the signal for third-party cookies. The API works as a browser extension within Google Chrome. With the help of machine learning algorithms FLoC can analyze user data and after that can create a group of thousands of people based on the sites that an individual visits. The important thing is that the data gathered from the browser is never shared. Instead, the group data from the much wider cohort of people is shared, and in that way, the ads have been targeted.

One of the toughest parts of phasing cookies out of internet ad-targeting is that there hasn’t been a good solution for what to replace them with. Google’s privacy efforts are happening alongside sweeping changes from Apple that similarly make it harder to track online individual user data. Google is trying its best to implement a better approach to its privacy changes than Apple, however, according to Chetna Bindra, Google’s head of user trust and privacy, added:

The way we see it is that there is a lot of technical innovation at the heart of this, and what we’ve been focusing on is not blocking 3rd-party cookies right away. We are intent on engaging the entire advertising community and really leaning into the kind of collaboration that’s critical to make such massive change.”

Google also stated that it is still not guaranteed that FLoC will be the answer to replace cookies “from its meal”, however, the company is highly encouraged to keep on working in this direction until it finds a final solution.

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