Google’s Privacy Sandbox, particularly its Federated Learning of Cohorts or FLoC, had the grand ambition of making third-party cookies unnecessary for target advertising, thereby protecting people’s privacy even while making money from them. Like many of Google’s grand ambitions, FLoC was met with no small amount of criticism and pushback. The company still maintains its position on the benefits of FLoC and its innocence from alleged ulterior motives. To give time to address those concerns, it is taking a small step back and delaying FLoC’s implementation to 2023.
When Google announced it would be phasing out third-party cookies by removing support for them on Chrome, it also promised it wouldn’t create technology to replace third-party cookies. Instead, it developed its Privacy Sandbox and FLoC to replace third-party cookies by promising a more privacy-respecting way while still giving businesses and advertisers a way to earn money. Not everyone bought the spiel, though, and Google faced intense scrutiny over its plans.
To give it more time to communicate with the Web’s many denizens, and potentially convince them of the validity of its FLoC, Google says it is delaying its implementation by about a year. It will start in late 2022 to give publishers and advertisers to prepare their services for the big change. That change will start in mid-2023, and Google estimates it will take only three months to phase out support for these third-party cookies.
Of course, the consequence of this delay is that third-party will be around for a little while longer. Web browsers now have systems to protect users from tracking, but Google believes that making these cookies totally obsolete is the only way to be free of them once and for all.
FLoC’s critics probably agree on that point but don’t see eye to eye with how Google is going about it. Points of contention include Google’s monopoly in the browser and advertising businesses, making FLoC a sure-fire way to keep its lead. There are also those that point out how its cohort idea itself is flawed and doesn’t exactly protect users from getting tracked, especially by Google.