Context & brief
Third-party cookies will be blocked or phased out by Google on its Chrome browser from 2020 to 2023, and have already been blocked by default within other browsers such as Safari and Firefox. Google recently announced that it will no longer allow data collection by third-party cookies using the Chrome browser. Those cookies are the backbone of a number of companies who depend on them for improving their digital advertising. Third party browsers are already being abandoned by browser providers like Safari and Firefox. This does not mean that Google is completely giving up tracking behavior. It has tweaked around the data collection mechanism, taking cookies out of the picture, replacing it with a Federate Learning of Cohorts(FLoC) mechanism. With this mechanism, users are now grouped into cohorts, which can be targeted by the advertisers in place of targeting specific anonymous users. The question about how this will transform user experience still lacks a clear answer.
It’s heartening to see that conversations and explorations are happening around finding better alternatives to third-party cookies, ones that respect both user’s need for privacy and personalization. FLoC could be one of the solutions in that direction – the litmus test would be whether or not such solutions pass the GDPR test.
But if FLoC gets implemented unilaterally by Google as a system, it would pose its own set of challenges. Google already has a monopoly on search and browser through Chrome, and with FLoC, there’s a danger of Google becoming the gatekeeper and that would give it more market dominance, which would put other players in the internet economy at a disadvantage. That’s a major area of concern for us.
The choice of third-party cookies or FLoC should thus be left to marketplaces and not exclusively to Google.