Google is testing its alternative to cookies for tracking web browsing

Google is testing its alternative to cookies for tracking web browsing

Google has announced it’s starting to test an “origin trial” with a new piece of web technology called Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC). The announcement comes on the heels of Google saying it will phase out third-party cookies and the use of user-agent strings.

The introduction of FloC arrives amidst a reckoning for the open web. Browser makers and users have pushed back against third-party cookies, which can follow people around the web and serve targeted advertising. Google’s solution takes a new approach to “interest-based advertising that both improves privacy and gives publishers a tool they need for viable advertising business models.”

Earlier this month, Google said it will take third-party cookies out of the advertising equation and instead hide individuals within large crowds with common interests. Meanwhile, FLoC won’t share your browsing history with Google or anyone.

“With FLoC, your browser determines which cohort corresponds most closely to your recent web browsing history, grouping you with thousands of other people who have similar browsing histories,” Google said in a blog post. “The identification number of the cohort is the only thing provided when requested by a site. This is different from third-party cookies, which allow companies to follow you individually across different sites.”

Google also said that its Chrome browser won’t create groups that it deems sensitive. So, before a cohort becomes eligible, Chrome will analyze if the cohort is visiting a page with a sensitive topic, such as a medical website or websites with political or religious content.

FLoC will initially be tested by a small percentage of users in Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, and the U.S. Google will then expand the test to other regions in the coming months. If you already block third-party cookies in Chrome, you won’t be included in the tests.

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Brandon Russell
Brandon Russell

Brandon's love of technology can be traced back to his childhood, when he would obsessively watch Back to the Future. Since then he's followed the industry and its many innovations, from handheld consoles to powerful smartphones. He's still waiting on a hoverboard.