Google Ditches FLoC, Turns to Topics

For the past several years, internet users have become more aware of and more concerned about the security of their private data. In response, Google has sought to enhance user privacy as it relates to digital advertising, a delicate proposition for a company that relies on detailed targeting to generate its main source of revenue.

In early 2020, the search engine announced that it would phase out cookies, the small blocks of code that help track users across the internet. Last year, it introduced Federated Cohorts of Learning (FLoC), a protocol that promised to deliver comprehensive audience targeting to advertisers while maintaining user anonymity. FLoC wasn’t well-received, and last week Google announced that it was to be abandoned in favour of Topics, an API that will select a limited number of topics that a user may be interested in based on their browsing history and share those topics with participating sites and advertisers. Selection occurs on the users’ device without the use of external servers, and the topics will be stored for three weeks only.

The announcement of the new API was greeted with two big questions: Will Topics provide enough user privacy? And will advertisers still be able to reach target audiences? Search Engine Land talked to several members of the paid search community who echoed these concerns.

“While some privacy people will still claim it’s too much tracking, it seems much more private than what is out there today,” said Brad Geddes, co-founder of AdAlysis. On the other hand, he added: “An interest in cars & autos doesn’t tell me if that’s luxury, rental, new, used, SUV, etc. That means there will be more competition for less targeted ads.”

At GrowthEngine Media, we support all efforts to improve user privacy in digital advertising. However, we also want to deliver best-in-class PPC results to our clients. We salute Google’s efforts to reduce the friction between those two interests and will continue to work diligently within whatever framework it provides.


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