Clearly most people who will find this post are fellow Internet Marketing professionals, so this read is preaching to the choir – you can probably skip it unless you don’t know about Google’s FLoC. Google’s FLoC (birds) is a next-gen Internet Marketing methodology. Most are calling it a “replacement” for third-party cookies, of which you can read an excellent post about this at EFF.org Google’s FLoC Is a Terrible Idea.
On the surface you might say “Great. Now they won’t track me individually, I’ll just be part of a much larger group.” called Cohorts. Sounds like a survival technique from the Serengeti – hiding in a crowd.
For the rest of you John Q Publics that say, “I don’t worry about privacy. I got nothing to hide.” (one of my best friends just said that to me) I have news for you.
You are wrong. You will not be hiding and you do have something to protect – your well being.
Lets say you voted for Trump. You never thought that once the opposition was in power, they would come looking for you. And the same can be said when these tides eventually turn. I’m not taking political sides. I don’t have to. History is full of French Revolutions and Cultural Revolutions, al la China under Mao, or more recent examples. No one I know can predict the future, nor can I. But I am not the only one who sees a problem in the future regarding individual privacy and how anyone could become a victim of another because of their “profile” under Googel’s FLoC.
Why is FLoC dangerous? Because “FLoC will use an unsupervised algorithm to create its clusters (cohort groupings). That means that nobody will have direct control over how people are grouped together.” your computer will be spying on and categorizing you. That profile will be far more granular than what can be collected under the current system of third-party cookies.
Sure Google and Apple builds profiles of you now and says they don’t store that data, but we have more than enough examples to prove that they speak with a forked-tongue. Still, those profiles (if they are saved somewhere) can be incomplete. Lets say you don’t use Google as your default search engine and you dont use Android or IOS, that’s some missing data. But if the profile is running in your browser on your device, well now that is a much finer net.
But its worse, anyone who wants to find out more about you, can simply get that from your browser when you visit any website. Anyone!
So you say you have nothing to hide. You are a proud law abiding citizen. But you just happen to visit a website that is related to a group that is suddenly related to an event that is deemed dangerous by someone. And the only thing they want to know is where you are right now. With FLoC, any website can easily find your IP address and location the next time you use your browser.
My business is not about your individual privacy and it won’t pay the bills. I am paid by businesses looking to connect with the right people on the Internet that will buy their products or services. That’s all good. We want everyone to buy our products. We are not interrogating someone’s browser to find if they “Wrongthink”.
Needless to say, the future of Internet Marketing is going to be shaped by systems like FLoC. Since “to search” is an explicit signal of “intent”, the future will likely be something like what Doc Searls has conceptualized in The Intention Economy. Ironically, you can even read about it on Google Books. (by clicking, it will help build your profile)