Google shakes the ad market with changes to cookies in Chrome
Earlier this year Google announced it will stop using third-party cookies in its 'Chrome' browser at the end of 2023. Whilst other web browsers, such as Apple Safari and Mozilla Firefox, have been blocking these cookies for a long time, the move by Google to follow suit still represents a big change for the ad business, albeit one that is purported to be a positive step forward for privacy.
Cookies are small files that hold temporary data about your online activity. These files are accessed and used by advertisers to tailor their adverts to you in a more personal way. You can find out more about cookies and how they are currently used here. The update Google has announced will stop third-parties from using cookies and put an end to 'individualised tracking', but it doesn't mean they will stop storing your data or even using it to send you more targeted ads. Google will continue to track your activity through the Chrome browser, but place you into a broader group of people that have similar interests to you, which advertisers can then use to target you in a more anonymous way. Google has named this the 'Federated Learning of Cohorts' (FLoC).
Whilst FLoC sounds like another positive move for privacy, it has also been criticised by some who argue it allows Google to tighten its already vast grip on the online ad industry even further – users get more anonymity, but Google gets even more control over your data. Some regulators, privacy experts, and ad companies have not been pleased with this move, with the announcement leading to the UK and EU beginning investigations to determine whether it will violate antitrust laws. Google has said they plan to have this change in place by the end of 2023, so nothing is completely set in stone yet, meaning there's still time to ensure this works in everyone's best interests.