Google’s FLoCs Take Flight, Ruffling a Few Feathers

Google’s FLoCs Take Flight, Ruffling a Few Feathers

Google’s solution to ending third-party cookies promises heightened individual privacy via group targeting, but some critics see it as yet another power consolidation in Google’s methodical, meticulous, and years-long conquering of the internet. As Chrome, the most popular web browser, starts its new cookieless life, elements of uncertainty still linger, fueling criticisms towards the tech leader’s approach to unified privacy.

the price of privacy

One of the most controversial topics regarding the cookieless transition involves Google’s FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) API. The concept is to create and target “cohorts,” or groups of interest-level users rather than individual targets. Cohorts will comprise users with similar recent browsing histories, with users being added to new and relevant groups accordingly. The idea is that by looking at clusters of people vs individuals, each person’s privacy is secured, but some critics view it as an overly complicated method of piecing together customers while ultimately putting Google in charge of a majority of data.

In a recent announcement, Oracle’s Executive VP, Ken Glueck, accused the methodology as a further power grab by Google under the guise of increasing user privacy. He points out that while third parties will no longer be privy to Chrome’s individual user data, first parties (Google) will still maintain access and ultimately regulation of Chrome’s collected data. Though browsers like Safari and Firefox have already rejected third-party cookies, Chrome’s whopping market share makes the reality of our cookieless world sink in a bit more.

We think cohorts are an interesting solution to alleviating individual privacy concerns, and the idea of cohorts dynamically changing alongside user interests seems like it will capture the naturally changing minds and trends of consumers. Google has even pointed out that FLoC testing to this point has proven “comparable” to signals received from third-party cookies. While we’re confident in Google’s ability to create a new system that doesn’t upend the old one, only time and further testing will tell if the search giant’s practices are fair for all parties. And with the new administration razor-focused on pursuing antitrust investigations, Google has it coming from all angles, so it’s very possible we’ll witness many unforeseen changes before the official 2022 death date of the third-party cookie.

what can advertisers do during this time of transition?

buy third-party audiences

Google is essentially doing what third-party audience vendors have been doing all along–supplying advertisers with interest-based audiences composed of like-minded people with similar behavior patterns. As social media usage continues to increase, a wealth of data is attainable through user engagements, allowing advertisers to target meaningfully and based on actual user behavior. Third-party audiences let advertisers reach effectively, and the greater the social coverage, the stronger the data.

The open internet isn’t going away, and there is more opportunity to shift ad spend to other major adtech players. Companies like LiveRamp, The Trade Desk, Verizon, Lotame and ID5 have developed identity solutions for marketers to begin testing now, with some advertisers like Fitbit ahead of the curve.

keep on collectin’

Marketers receive their own first-party signals from users that interact with their sites and apps, giving pivotal insights into where/when users visit, as well as how they interact within their structure. Make certain your data flows freely between lead gen, CRM, social media, polls, etc. You are in control of your first-party data, and regular data audits should ensure nothing is lost. Work with companies offering identity solutions to maximize potential of first-party data through capabilities like enrichment, which can be used for analytics and personalization.

create omnichannel media plans

Expand your digital footprint through media buys that will continue to be powered by universal IDs that will span beyond the deprecation of 3PC, like Connected TV, Android, and social media platforms (see bullet 5 here).

stay tuned but don’t wait around

The news changes rapidly, and we’re certain to see some fireworks in both how Silicon Valley tech giants are run, as well as how data and consumer privacy will be regulated. No one wants to alter the entire digital ad industry, and we’re only in the early stages of a transition. For now, securing your first-party and third-party audience coverage will suffice.

Have direct conversations with third-party data providers on their ability to continue to create custom segments, available for activation on DV360 via private marketplace (PMP) deals. Begin to test these capabilities as well as omnichannel solutions, so you aren’t waiting until the 11th hour (December 2021). See bullet 4 of LiveRamp’s article.

Need help creating a custom audience or appending your first-party data with rich lifestyle, media and entertainment consumption signals? Contact us at to see how our deep social data can provide invaluable targeting assistance.

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