WordPress Proposes Blocking FLoC By Default
Google announced they will be phasing out third-party cookies by 2022, which undeniably seemed like a strange move for Google because they surely wouldn’t want to damage the industry that it dominates and is responsible for the majority of its revenue. Shortly after this announcement, they followed up with their replacement plan, Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC).
What is FloC?
FLoC is a different way of targeting advertisers that is interest-based. Instead of identifying consumers individually, you’re associated with a group of people with shared interests. Google is making this change all in the name of privacy, one of many privacy-based changes that have been made over the last year. With FLoC, an individual’s information is kept private while the browser will look at the history and assign users to specific groups.
WordPress has proposed blocking FLoC on their websites by default. Essentially all website builders have the ability to block this technology with the entry of a few lines of code. The difference is, many people aren’t always aware of these changes when they are happening and simply don’t get around to implementing the code. This would leave the users of their site open to having their data tracked and placed in one of Google’s groups. As of now, this is simply a proposed idea, and WordPress is not expected to be close to a decision.
Why we care?
This would be a huge blow to Google and online advertisers because an estimated 40% of all sites use WordPress. That is a massive share of user behavior that would be lost to advertisers, dramatically impacting the ability to reach potential customers.
The end of third-party cookies is overdue and having a more private internet is definitely important. Google publicly says that FLoC is a step forward in regards to privacy and that may be, but it’s a very small step forward. The biggest issue that comes to mind is the type of cohorts that will be utilized. It’s not difficult to see how this could lead to the exploitation of vulnerable groups of people which is one of the biggest reasons for these changes in the first place. On top of that, if we begin to see other website developers take the same stand as WordPress, advertisers won’t have access to much user data anyways. This comes across as Google pushing back against privacy while saying the opposite. If Google did push forward with FLoC, my belief is that it wouldn’t be long until we see more privacy protection lawsuits and Google is scrambling for a better solution.