"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" --Lao Tzu

What is FLoC?

Monday, April 19th, 2021

What is a cohort?

cohort \KOH-hort\ noun. 1 : companion, colleague. 2 a : band, group. b : a group of individuals having a statistical factor (such as age or class membership) in common in a demographic study. c : one of 10 divisions of an ancient Roman legion.

Ok, then what is a "Federated Learning of Cohorts"?

Federated Learning of Cohorts \ˈfedəˌrādəd\ \ˈlərniNG\ \əv\ \KOH-horts\ noun. 1 : A new way that browsers could enable interest-based advertising on the web, in which the companies who today observe the browsing behavior of individuals instead observe the behavior of a cohort of similar people.

FLoC is a proposed browser standard that will assign users to a group where you'll be associated with a group of "cohorts" which are simply other users with similar interests. This cohort group will be assigned an ID number that advertisers will use to display specific ads. Google says that they will wait until a cohort group reaches several thousand members before allowing advertisements to that specific group.

Hypothetically, based on your browser history, Chrome's built-in algorithm will place you in the "Cat Lovers" cohort group that has the ID number 123456. Advertisers will know that you are in cohort group 123456 and that 123456 is for "Cat Lovers". It will then serve up ads suited for that interest or for any other cohort group that you belong to.

This will help protect privacy and stop companies from fingerprinting your identity, which happens when a company analyzes and combines the minute amounts of data that a person inadvertently reveals by simply browsing websites to create a profile that identifies that person. The data fingerprint that they compile can be given away or even sold to marketing companies. There are legitimate privacy concerns with this practice and there's no way to stop it from happening. At least with FLoC, the data is abstracted in a way that a person can't be directly identified or tracked.

By 2022, Chrome will no longer allow third-party cookies. I believe this is a step in the right direction. There's no way to stop advertising online but companies like Google can at least make it more ethical by protecting user privacy.

If you want to find out if you are already FLoC'd, you can check here: https://amifloced.org/

For more information, please check FLoC's official Github repo: https://github.com/WICG/floc

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