What the FLoC is the Federated Learning  of Cohorts?

By Laurence Williams  |  April 19, 2021


Google has launched a trial of an experimental tracking feature called the Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC),  a new system to track users and send relevant advertisements their way.

Google has called for the phase-out of third-party cookies by 2022, and has been developing solutions to issues that arise in a cookie-free digital environment. Now they are promoting FLoC as a privacy-preserving advertising solution.

Goodbye Cookies

FLoC groups people with similar interests, hiding individuals in a crowd of similar people. Users get an identifier (FLoC ID) for their groups, and each group contains at least a few thousand users who advertisers will have the ability to target.

How it Works

On the surface, FLoC appears to be the “privacy-first alternative to third-party cookies” it’s said to be. But experts are concerned that this is actually a step backwards in data privacy and security.

Sensitive Cohorts

“Sensitive Cohorts” might reveal sensitive information by grouping users based on information they consider private and damaging, even if Google considers it inconsequential.

A Test of Antitrust Regulations

By removing and limiting third-party cookies, Google is making it so they will have a potentially unfair advantage in the advertising market.  They will become the de facto source for building audiences for advertising.

Google Already Has a Lot of  Data on You

Even without cookies, Google can collect information about users online through servers connected to Google products, websites with Google pixels and apps integrated with Google products like Firebase.