Monitoring is a great thing when you can track an order until it arrives. However, if the proverbial red shoes that you clicked on one time follow you around the web for the next 14 days, it starts to get annoying. This will now be a thing of the past. For Google, at least. The company has announced that it will no longer use technology that can track individuals across multiple websites. This marks the end of personalized advertising on the Internet as we know it today.
As of next year, Google intends to stop tracking and analyzing the surfing behavior of its users for the purpose of playing out advertising tailored to personal interests. However, it is precisely this advertising that is considered particularly effective and attractive for advertisers. Inventory that can’t be personalized doesn’t fetch nearly the same prices as ad space tailored to visitors. Nevertheless, techniques that track individual users are to be abandoned. After the end of tracking cookies, Google has announced that the search engine giant will not develop alternative technologies or use existing ones that can track users. Google’s announcement, while seemingly radical, comes as no surprise based on its efforts to find alternatives, which have been moving forward for the past two years, and follows Apple’s announcement of a similar approach in January.
We asked Martin Schirmbacher, our legal expert for e-commerce and co. at the law firm Härting + Partner, about Google’s announcement: “What seems like a shock is ultimately just a consistent continuation of Google’s strategy. Unlike many small ad tech companies, Google has a huge database. On this basis, much better and much more precise statements can be made without actually having to track individual users. Google can now pose as a privacy company. The results will be more accurate than many personalized tracking. From the point of view of data protection, this is of course to be welcomed. However, it remains to be seen whether the implementation actually meets the requirements of the GDPR in detail. The data protection authorities are generally critical when it comes to creating profiles or clusters. If the advertisements played allow conclusions to be drawn about the advertisers, the data protection authorities will intervene.”
But Schirmbacher also got to the heart of the matter: the discontinuation of tracking in no way means that Google will be doing without advertising in the future. Rather, a new technology will be used.
FLoC, is the magic word, “Federated Learning of Cohorts”. This means nothing other than that Google will in the future combine mass data of users in clusters, so-called cohorts (…you know from Asterix), and from these group characteristics in turn analyze commonalities. Google promises that the individual characteristics of a user disappear in the mass, but his potential wishes can still be met. This makes perfect sense, as Google made $31.9 billion in revenue from ads in its search engine environment alone in quarter 4/2020.