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Technology, Google is looking for a replacement for cookies

Google has set out to find replacements for cookies, these trackers that allow the online search giant to sell highly personalized ad space, but irritate data privacy advocates.

The Californian group is working on an alternative system, supposedly to ensure greater respect for privacy while allowing brands to continue to target the audience they want.

This approach disguises people from the crowd and uses device computing to keep a person's browser history private, explained Chetna Bindra, Product Manager, during a presentation last month of this system called Federated Learning of Cohorts. Federated Cohort Learning, FLoC).

Instead of targeting individual Internet users, advertisers will target audience segments, the "FLoC," comprising hundreds or thousands of people.

Google will define these segments based on user navigation and plans to begin testing FLoC with brands in its Chrome browser within a year.

"The results (of our studies) show that FLoCs are effective in generating audiences based on user interests and therefore supersede cookies," continued Chetna Bindra.

"Advertising is essential for the web to remain open to all, but the web ecosystem is at risk if data privacy practices are no longer aligned with expectations."

The Silicon Valley company Mountain View is widely criticized by Western authorities and digital rights NGOs for the issue of user privacy.

The growing discomfort with cookies, synonymous with continuous monitoring, was reflected in the European Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which guarantees users certain rights over their data (how it is collected and used, if it is done for commercial purposes or no).

Google, which dominates the global digital advertising market, has an interest in finding a way to reassure the public while satisfying advertisers eager not to send their messages into the void.

Some cookies fulfill a purely utilitarian function. Every time a user reaches a page that requests their contact information, if they are displayed directly in the windows, it is due to these small text files that collect data as one navigates.

"Third-party cookies are a privacy nightmare," says Bennet Cyphers, a researcher at the NGO Electronic Frontier Foundation.
"You don't have to know everything about everyone to post an ad."

Browsers Safari (Apple) and Firefox block third-party cookies, but Chrome, which accounted for 63 percent of the market in 2020, according to StatCounter, still uses them.

Third-party cookies "carry a lot of weight with Google, both in terms of competition times and in legal matters, but Google wants to make sure that its advertising business model works at full speed," says Cyphers.


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