Google FLoC Is The New Cookie Monster: Why You Should Know About It

Google Privacy Sandbox is finally live with its first option.


Google FLoC stands for Federated Learning of Cohorts. It is the new age web technology that will replace cookies on Google Chrome. We all know that Google has deemed cookies outdated and has started blocking third-party cookies for a while now on Chrome. What was unclear was how Google plans to replace Cookies.

Now that we know it plans to FLoC(k) us in groups, we can see what Google is playing at here. Cookies have been named and shamed for a long time for being anti-privacy, hence they’re being thrown out now. But what makes more sense, from Google’s side, is how the company will gain absolute control of its ad business with these new measures.

FLoC is a part of the Google Privacy Sandbox, a 2019 initiative of the Mountain View search behemoth. While this is just one way for Google to improve Google Chrome privacy, we’ll get several other methods in the coming future. Here’s everything you need to know about Google FLoC and Google Privacy Sandbox.

What is Google FLoC?

What is Google FLoC and how it works
A screenshot of the working of Google FLoC

As mentioned earlier, Google FLoC stands for Federated Learning of Cohorts. It is a web technology available as a developer origin trial in Chrome browser. FLoC is one of the methods where your browser’s recent browsing history is locally scanned on your device.

A site can request your browser to tell which cohort suits you best. Once that is done, you’ll see relevant ads. Cohorts are groups of people with similar browsing histories. Simply put, Google will flock you with like-minded people and show relevant ads to the entire flock instead of targeting every single user in it.

This is better than cookies because then advertisers can’t follow you around everywhere or create a digital fingerprint of your data. For the uninitiated, cookies are small pieces of data placed on your phone or computer browser by the websites you visit.

FLoC is also smart as it is being improved to avoid creating sensitive cohorts. Google also says that FLoC is smart enough to not create cohorts of sensitive topics, so we probably don’t need to worry about holocaust deniers finding a place on history student’s laptops. So your political views are less likely to get resonated in echo chambers. If you’re interested in knowing more about echo chamber, give the article below a read.

Also Read: Opinion: What The Hell Happened To Social Media?

What is Google Privacy Sandbox?

FLoC- Representative image for cross-site tracking from Google privacy sandbox
FLoC- Representative image for cross-site tracking from Google privacy sandbox

Started in 2019, the Google Privacy Sandbox is a set of web technologies to let you control the way you use the internet. These technologies address concerns like third-party cookies tracking you across the web.

Cookies serve a lot of purposes like loading the site faster, or tracking your activity across all the sites you visit. That’s where Google FLoC and Privacy Sandbox come in. Google Chrome earlier decided to block third-party cookies in a ‘phased’ manner. With new web tech, Google is phasing out cookies without hitting the functionality of the websites.

The Privacy Sandbox options are replacements for cookies. Cookies are stored on your computer so they’re able to precisely track you and know everything about your individual preferences. On the other hand, Google FLoC and other methods in the privacy sandbox will help you remain hidden from fingerprinting and other aggressive tracking methods on the web.

Hey Google, Stop FLoC-king Kidding

One of the things I can’t help but point out is the similarity between FLoC and Apple’s advertising method. Apple creates clusters or segments of people with similar interests and serves them relevant ads. Google’s FLoC seems to work in a similar fashion, as it also creates ‘cohorts’ and shows relevant ads.

There’s always an exchange of features from gestures to notches between Android and Apple’s iOS. We can safely say that this is another one of those exchanges. There are also concerns about FLoC that it may simplify it for the websites to target users by dividing them into cohorts.

Also, by doing so, Google isn’t really offering better privacy, but just keeping all the data to itself. So Kudos, third-parties can’t see you! Unless, they pay Google to be able to see and we’re back to square one, which is zero privacy. Google also can’t justify FLoC as Chrome is probably the last mainstream browser that is implementing something like this.

I’ve been using Safari and Firefox on my MacBook for over 4 years now and the browsers simply let you disable all tracking, no shenanigans. Google FLoC is just a fancy way for the company to build an airtight business with more control over data. Simply put, the new cookie monster is a big cookie itself. It’d be way better if Google could provide simpler privacy options like Firefox, Safari, or Brave browser.

Google FLoC is made to look like the knight in shining armor we need. Wielding the sword of a shiny new website and a promise of a private internet. When in reality, it’s just the neighborhood bully in a tinfoil hat. Period.

Sources: 1, 2

Manik Berry

Manik Berry

With a Master’s degree in journalism, Manik writes about big tech and has a keen eye for political-tech news. In his free time, he’s browsing the Kindle store for new stuff read. Manik also adores his motorcycle and is looking for new routes on weekends. He likes tea and cat memes. You can reach him at [email protected]
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