Google is monitoring your online activity, keeping tabs on you. In 2020, Google announced the start of tracking third-party cookies, followed when you click on the Chrome web browser. It is now beginning to introduce cookie alternatives, a tracking mechanism called “joint cohort learning” or FLoC.
Cookies will remember your login information or information that you have browsed on shopping websites. Advertisers can use this information to understand your online and even offline behavior better and then provide you with targeted ads specifically for you, which you will follow on the Internet. Google has stated that it wants Internet browsing to be less aggressive, but it also wants to maintain online advertising revenue growth.
This has led to a change from cookies to the FLoC system, where users with similar interests will be grouped based on their browsing history. The ID assigned to your group or “cohort” will follow you across the Internet and advertisers, and Google called it “interest-based advertising” in a blog post in January 2021.
Google considers this to be a “privacy priority” for cookies because your specific browser history will not be transmitted to advertisers. Only your similar queue ID can be sent to advertisers. Thousands of users can be part of a cohort.
A Google whitepaper on FLoC summarizes the benefits of privacy protection (according to Google), which allows users to “hide from the crowd.” Based on your browsing history, you can be assigned to a group of all dog owners who have visited certain websites instead of being selected as a single dog owner who visits a pet food website.
With the help of the Chrome browser’s FLoC tracking feature, you can divide into a group of people who like or have dogs and a group of people who have also been to the same website but have or like cats. Each user can be part of multiple identification groups according to their interests. And, since many Chrome users log into their Google accounts, their identity will follow (and be further shaped) across different devices.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an online privacy advocacy organization, found this new form of online surveillance, which tracks your online history each week to more accurately group it and collect more identifying information (called fingerprint recognition). EFF is also concerned that testing the new tracking method has started without the user’s consent or knowledge, and there is no precise exit method.
For the new type of tracking, EFF has created a website to verify that your Chrome browser forms a cohort ID and shares it with advertisers. The feature is yet to be fully released, but testing is still in progress.
Since only a small number of users in the initial test may not be part of the FLoC test yet. But EFF reminds you to keep checking because as the test expands, it may be added every week. If it’s classified as a new ad tech strategy, Google won’t give you any advice.