Advertisers want to be effective in the content they push to consumers, but the latter must be given the ability to opt out if they don’t want a personalized ad. This remains crucial even as the debate over Google’s Federal Cohort Learning (FLoC) continues.
Typically, marketers would want to reach out to sections of their audience, rather than just one consumer. This is what cohorts intended to do, Acquia’s chief science officer, Omer Artun, said in a video call with ZDNet.
Acquia offers tools that enable brands to create and track cohorts, as well as analyze their performance so that they have the insights to enhance their marketing campaigns. Snapshots of cohorts could also be captured to monitor how these audience segments evolved after the cohort was created. This allowed marketers to identify changes and trends in customer behavior, and to change their marketing activities to improve sales of items that were not selling well, for example.
Artun compared him to doctors who treat illness. Their main goal here was not to know who the patients were, but to flush out the symptoms so they could recognize the illness and decide on the treatment.
However, Google’s use of cohorts drew mainly criticism about how the tech giant would share a summary of the browser’s recent history with marketers. He had said that FLoC eliminated the need for individual identifiers while still enabling brands to reach people with relevant content and ads by targeting clusters of people with common interests.
Google last week began testing the feature for Chrome users in several countries, including India, Australia, Indonesia, and Japan, but not in markets where the EU’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) was in place.
Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said in a post last month that FLoC’s core design involves sharing new information with advertisers that created new privacy risks. He cited browser fingerprinting as one key issue, as it collected discrete pieces of information from a user’s browser, a unique identifier for that browser. “If a tracker starts with your FLoC squad, it only has to differentiate a few thousand others from your browser – rather than a few hundred million,” said EFF, adding that it would be easier to unique fingerprint trackers for FLoC users.
The not-for-profit organization added that FLoC would also share new personal data with trackers who might already be identifying consumers. “For FLoC to be useful to advertisers, a consumer cohort will necessarily disclose information about their behavior,” he said. “Moreover, as your FLoC cohort will update over time, sites that can identify you in other ways will also be able to track how your browsing is changing. Remember, the FLoC cohort is nothing more, and no less, than a summary of your recent. browsing activity. You should have the right to present different aspects of your identity, in different contexts. “
A few Chromium-based browsers, including Vivaldi and Brave, stepped in to say that they had removed FLoC from their platforms due to privacy concerns. WordPress was also considering blocking Google’s feature of its blogging system. The DuckDuckGo search engine also released an extension that blocked FLoC.
Asked about his comments over the latest developments, Artun told ZDNet that there would be critics “to anything, anyone” when it comes to advertising. “The idea is to create an efficient system of advertising while protecting privacy,” he said. “If you don’t want any advertising personalized, then opt out [or] use another browser. “
These alternative browsers acted to address a portion of the population that did not want to advertise, he said.
“FLoC is a good way to hide certain user information, but at the same time, group interests,” he added. Artun noted that if advertisers were rendered “blind”, then ads would be inefficient and consumers would pay more for whatever they wanted to buy.
Users should be able to manage their own data
He said several issues also remained unclear, such as whether party data could be first matched to FLoC identifiers, thus providing more user information than was available today. He expressed confidence that such issues would be addressed in the future which balanced privacy and targeted advertising.
He reiterated that anyone could still opt out and that this process should be made easy for those who wished to do so.
Artun further argued the need for a “Delete option”, which would allow users like him to see the cohorts in which they were divided and remove themselves from factions they did not want to join.
“I should be able to go to a digital marketer platform and delete it,” he said. “Imagine if you can manage the data and delete anything related to it. You don’t have that option at the moment. To be able to view the data and be able to delete or manage the data is the nirvana at my opinion. [for consumers]. “
He also called for greater transparency about what online platforms like Google and Amazon were doing with consumer data. He added, in itself, personalization was giving users control over their data.
“Transparency and control – both are missing at the moment,” he noted.