Google FLOC is the next DISRUPTIVE technology in the Digital Marketing VERTICAL by Naser Zagha

Google FLOC, Naser Zagha

FLOC has just been introduced by Google, and FLOC stands for Federated Learning of Cohorts. It’s a technical system that Google wants to use to replace the current use of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd party cookies that gets placed in your browser while you are browsing the internet. Such cookies capture your private data as a user and then this information gets used by 3rd party advertising agencies to target you with specifically tailored ads that address your user browsing behavior and needs. Google explained that there is an urgent need to end such a practice and provide its users with further privacy and security, and that’s where the new term merged.

Google Floc, Naser Zagha


Previously, Chrome has never assigned users to small cohorts, but Google suggests that it will now start using this practice, and it will create cohorts of users based on their browsing needs and behavior. This way, Google can re-target such individuals as groups and not as individuals, thus masking the identity of the users, and saving their privacy, and saving them from any security penetrations and intrusions.

This new initiative by Google will end the era of using cookies in websites since the current practice of cookie usage has caused a lot of debates about users’ privacy and how to protect its consumers. Some countries went on to legislate certain laws to protect their consumers’ privacy, such as the GDPR “General Data Protection Regulation” by the European Union.

Regardless of whether Google was interested in protecting its Chrome users from data preaches or not, it’s obvious that blocking third-party cookies has led to some innovative new solutions in the ad tech industry. In 2020, Google announced that it would roll back the support for third-party cookies in Chrome that are used by advertisers and others to track users as they move through the web. Since then, Google has developed the FLOC system and other technologies to replace third-party cookies.

According to Gareth Haken, an analyst at the Information Security Forum (ISF), third-party cookies have traditionally been preferred by large social media companies for being placed on websites with social media buttons. However, he said the tide may turn against them in time. Other browsers are starting to block third-party cookies by default, so we welcome this direction, but the whole IT industry is concerned about the immediate impact.

Last year, Google performed a doozy of a cliffhanger when it announced a two-year research initiative to eliminate third-party cookies in its Chrome browser. While I was excited because we need a more private Web, we knew that third-party cookies were not the long-term answer. Google introduced the Privacy Sandbox to remove third-party cookies as a viable alternative to privacy protection to serve relevant ads without compromising users’ privacy.

To serve relevant ads in this new ecosystem, Google has proposed an interest-based advertising approach codenamed Federated Learning Cohorts (FLOC) API. FLOC proposes a new way for companies to identify prospective customers based on their particular interests and surfing habits. It begins with the idea that groups of people can replace individual identifiers and third-party cookies.

Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLOC) offers a new way for companies to reach people with relevant content and ads by integrating large groups of people with similar interests. FLOC and federal cohort learning allow advertisers to track Internet users without revealing their identities.

This eliminates the need to store web user information on a server, further improving privacy. The platform eliminates the need to store information from web users on servers, which can improve privacy.

Google Floc, Naser Zagha


One of the reasons Google describes FLOC as an API that protects privacy is that advertisers can only access the Cohort ID, not the identity of the individual user. However, Google argues that FLOC provides stricter privacy controls than third-party cookie alternatives such as fingerprinting in the browser. Google touts this as a step toward transparency and user control, knowing that the vast majority of Google users do not understand how FLOC works, and few would do anything to turn it off.

Earlier this month, Google announced it would not develop or use alternative identifiers to track users for advertising purposes. Instead, it reiterated that it will be funded by advertising through one of its data protection sandbox initiatives, Federated Learning Cohorts (FLOC).

Google said on Monday that new test results show promising signs that the technology it hopes to replace cookie-based advertising has worked. Advertisers have been anticipating a shift away from third-party cookies for years, but they have yet to see the technology Google supports to replace them. The company said Monday that tests it uses to reach its audience have shown that advertisers can expect up to 95% more revenue for every dollar spent on advertising, compared to cookie-based advertising. (Sources: 0, 1).

Google Floc, Naser Zagha

The company uses machine learning algorithms to analyze user data to create groups of thousands of people based on websites that are visited by individuals. FLOCs are created using devices that learn machine-learning to group users based on their browsing behavior into cohorts to ensure that individuals in their cohort are at least somewhat indistinguishable from other people. Using machine learning algorithms, the FLOC analyzes user data and creates groups of millions of people based on which websites they visit (Sources: 0, 5, 7)

As a replacement for tracking cookies, the Federated Learning Cohorts (FLOCs) proposal is a new solution for behavioral ad targeting. In October, Google published initial results of its FLOC tests, which indicated that interest-based cohorts produced big improvements in recall accuracy and random clustering. (Sources: 5, 9)

Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLOC) assigns users cohorts of similar interests and shares the cohort ID with the websites they visit. FLOC is a clever technology that allows the web to be divided into user behavior cohorts without having to share user behavior (i.e., the history of pages a user has visited) with third parties. When a user moves around the Web, his or her browser uses the FLOC algorithm to determine his or her cohort of interests from the same thousands of browsers with similar current browsing history. The browser recalculates this cohort for each user on each device and shares the individual browser data with browser providers. (Sources: 4, 9)

As part of its efforts to replace third-party cookies, Google has begun testing a new API called Federated Learning Cohorts (FLOCs). The company made its proposal for interest-based cohorts (FLocs) and federated learning cohorts available to the public for developer testing starting in March 2021. The FLOCs API exists as a browser extension for Google’s Chrome browser. (Sources: 5, 7)

Therefore, in March 2021, Google FLOC started testing in the Chrome browser as a replacement for third-party cookies [8] but plans to discontinue support for Chrome in late 2021 [9] or early 2022. Due to concerns about the legality of their data protection rules, users in the UK and the European Economic Area were not included in the test. (Sources: 10)

The main goal of their initiative was to create an alternative to ad personalization to third-party cookies that protects users “privacy. Google made headlines earlier this month when it announced that it would start removing third-party cookies from Chrome in April 2021, speeding up its original timeline. A year later, Google is on track to fulfill its promise to remove third-party cookies from its Chrome browser by 2022, even before its top rivals Firefox and Safari had done so. (Sources: 2)

Cited Sources



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