Google plans to shift advertising from user tracking to group tracking

Martin Brinkmann
Mar 4, 2021
Updated • Jan 26, 2022

It is no secret that Google is working on removing support for third-party cookies in its products, most notable its Chrome web browser, the world's most used browser.

One of the main applications of third-party cookies is user tracking. The cookies are used to identify users and provide advertisers with information on user activity.

Browser makers like Mozilla and Microsoft started to introduce protective functionality in their browsers to address tracking and growing user concerns as privacy became a growing user concern worldwide.

Today, Google announced that it won't replace third-party cookies, once eliminated as an option to track users, with other functions that track individual users.

Today, we're making explicit that once third-party cookies are phased out, we will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will we use them in our products.

Google introduced some groundwork in Chrome 89 Stable, which it released yesterday to the public.

One of the company's core plan of going forward is to move tracking to group levels. Called Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), it is designed to group users into interests groups and provide advertisers with correlation information between clicks on ads and conversions on sites.

FLoC is designed to show relevant interest-based advertisement to Internet users, but without identification of the individual. Cohorts are made up of thousands of people "derived by the browser from its user's browsing history". Google notes on GitHub that the data is stored locally and are not uploaded to remote servers.

The central idea is that these input features to the algorithm, including the web history, are kept local on the browser and are not uploaded elsewhere” the browser only exposes the generated cohort.

Since cohorts consist of thousands of Internet users, it is clear that interests will overlap, but also that there will be interests that only some of the users of a cohort share.

Google lists several abuse scenarios on the GitHub page, including that sites that can identify individual users, e.g. through accounts, could link information provided by FLoC to users, that it could be used as a tracking mechanism, and that sensitive interests may be revealed. The readme suggests that users will be able to control whether their browser sends a "real" FLoC or a random one.

Much about FLoC and related functions is still in an experimental stage, and things may change along the way before wide adoption starts. Unless something critical happens, it is set in stone that FLoC will become a part of the Google browser. Whether other browser makers, be they Chromium-based or based on other technology, will implement this as well is not clear at this point.

Now You: What is your take on this development?

Article Name
Google plans to shift advertising from user tracking to group tracking
Google unveiled plans to eliminate the tracking of individual users in favor of using group associates, called cohorts, for advertising purposes.
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  1. MR MUSTASHE said on March 8, 2021 at 9:25 pm


    Ghacks, If I may make a suggestion… I propose that the ensuing text be added by to its “Check the box” blurb/ string (within a “read more” caption at the end of the blurb)…

    In Checking the box to consent to data being stored in line with the guidelines set out in Ghacks’ Privacy Policy, we at give NO SANCTION to a violation of your Constitutionally protected Rights and Freedoms, nor to a violation of any of the Articles to be found within the Universal declaration of Human Rights/ UDHR! And to the extent that such may be felt breached, we ask that you notify us of the perceived or substantive breach, by filling out the form h̲e̲r̲e̲! Thank you!

    And thank you!… and all the best!

  2. Anonymous said on March 8, 2021 at 6:20 pm

    The EFF has a more recent write-up about FLOC from March 3, 2021:

    1. Anonymous said on March 9, 2021 at 12:36 pm

      By the way, no public Mozilla reaction that I know of against this.

      Of course.

  3. Anonymoose said on March 8, 2021 at 3:52 am

    Jeez Iron, we all know you hate Mozilla (and its products) with a passion, but gotta say you’re really REALLY reaching here.

    The report states:

    “Decentralization helps to solve many problems, but also raises new challenges. P2P technologies can advance many of society’s greatest coordination problems, from public transportation and supply chains to positive social connectedness and collaboration. However, the challenges that they ask us to face don’t have easy solutions.”

    The challenges specifically under focus here include white supremacists increasingly turning to P2P tech (since traditional avenues are blocked) for fund raising, communication etc. to facilitate hate based violence. Hence the report title referring to a “decentralized web of hate”.

    Like most disruptive ground-breaking tech, P2P too obviously has pros and cons – after all what makes it a boon for pirates i.e. no-limits, uncontrolled, uncensored, resilient file sharing, communication etc. is exactly what makes it a boon for terrorists, white supremacists and racists in general, child porn rings, dealers of illicit substances and so on. So unless you belong to or are a cheerleader for one of these latter criminal groups, I don’t see how one can argue with the report’s conclusions that we urgently need to find ways (technical and otherwise) to maximize P2P’s positive effects on social cooperation and minimize its negative effects, especially given the fact that legislation alone will neither be able to keep up nor suffice to combat the latter.

    > People, don’t use decentralized structures! Some bad actors abuse them to hurt your feelings! Trust big brother! Big brother protects you from all evil!

    Given that there’s nothing about surveillance capitalism in the report, and no conclusion remotely akin to what’s quoted above is reached, your comment is clearly nothing more than a crass and ham-handed attempt to malign Mozilla.

    Personally it makes no difference to me or what software I use, but I _am_ curious about the psychopathology behind such behavior – what makes a person obsess about a company/product so much as to go out of his way to attack it day in and day out (with what many would classify as obvious exaggerations, distortions and outright lies), that too directed at random strangers via the comments section of some site? Oh sure, you can proffer some claptrap excuse all you want about how you’re simply “combating misinformation” (might even believe it), but that simply cannot explain the time and effort expended in such clearly obsessive behavior.

    1. Anonymous said on March 8, 2021 at 6:28 pm

      And once again, disagreeing with Mozilla, and by extension Google, is “psychopathology”. Going out of one’s way to attack Google or Mozilla day in and day out is mental illness. Spending time and effort against the most obvious attackers of the human right to privacy is clearly sign of a disease to be cured. And there is discipline in that message, many surveillance capitalism supporting trolls will spew the same shit.

      Anonymoose, you are a disgusting person.

      1. Anonymoose said on March 9, 2021 at 1:24 am

        Aww, Anon7, triggered again due to your guilty conscience, are you? * [Editor: removed, please stay polite]

      2. Anonymous said on March 9, 2021 at 12:35 pm

        Not Anon7 and my conscience is clean, unlike yours defending that evil spawn of Google that Mozilla is. A for-profit disguised as a non-profit, a Google and adtech toy disguised as a privacy organization, with a damning record. And since recently, a repugnant right-wing propaganda outlet disguised as progressist, diverting the anti-racism struggle to defend much more sinister reactionary goals, that is supporting corporate right-wing disinformation in a new alliance with the worst of former republicans (more imperialist wars ! more police state ! more fascist putsches abroad ! socialists are like nazis ! social democrats are dictators ! fighting zionist apartheid is racism !), and the current international wave of censorship against leftists in a friendly kollaboration with the worst of the reactionary state and corporate apparatus under the absurdly contradictory pretext of “fighting Trump or racism”, with whom the Dems will in fact share most of the political agenda in practice.

        So yes, it “triggers” me when I hear your kind of corporate traitor insulting us leftists and digital rights activists like if you had a moral high ground, after repetitively censoring us whenever you can, or even calling us psychopaths like I’ve heard many of your kind of MozCorp fanatics do before.

      3. Iron Heart said on March 9, 2021 at 7:36 pm


        Decentralization / decentralized structures are the only choice which the people have to fight back, anything else can be watched or even shut down by monopolistic entities very easily. Sure, some people abuse such structures, but does that make decentralization a bad concept? No, but once again Mozilla is fear mongering here, advocating against decentralization, citing a minority of cases where it’s getting abused as their sole reason. Now, what is the opposite of decentralization? It’s centralized control, the very monopolistic entities who are Mozilla’s paymasters.
        Articles like that only discredit any attempt at real, effective opposition against monopoliistic abuse.

        Of course, I am somehow “mentally challenged” for seeing through this and criticizing the fear mongering, perhaps I am somehow even in favor of the abuse (which I deem extremely insulting)? Who knows? That’s basically what @Anonymoose is telling me here in response. But @Anonymoose isn’t even able to see that Mozilla is indirectly advocating for centralization here, by trying to discredit decentralization. Hey, @Anonymoose, I am always for the PEOPLE and their interest and against MONOPOLIES and their SLAVES. Why do you think I am advocating for privacy as much as I do? Because I very much hate CORPORATE SURVEILLANCE and the ABUSE this entails.

        Also, @Anonymous, you seem to be correct in your assumption that fighting anti-imperialist tendencies is a stated goal:

        “08: One Small Step for Conspiracies
        I’m a teacher and I watched serious documentaries about Apollo 11. But YouTube’s recommendations are now full of videos about conspiracy theories: about 9/11, Hitler’s escape, alien seekers and anti-American propaganda.”

        source: (scroll down the page a bit, I’m sure you’ll find it quickly)

      4. Anonymous said on March 10, 2021 at 2:13 am

        Except that you are not among those “fighting back”, Iron Heart. The right-wing populism trend has always been a way for capitalism to recycle safely into its own system the anger it generates, using scapegoats and anti-communist paranoia. Today their vocal fake opposition is also very useful to capitalism for it to discredit the actual opposition from the left.

      5. Iron Heart said on March 10, 2021 at 10:36 am


        > The right-wing populism trend


        That’s not the kind of politics I am supportive of.

  4. Anonymoose said on March 6, 2021 at 3:05 am

    “No, Google is talking about eliminating the competition.”

    Yes obviously, while desperately doing whatever it takes to ensure its surveillance capitalism-based economy doesn’t collapse.

    1. Iron Heart said on March 7, 2021 at 11:09 am


      When people try to ween themselves off abusive corporate surveillance (which I agree, is a problem), the so called competition calls it “the decentralized web of hate”:

      “Decentralized and open-source technologies play an outsized role in keeping the internet healthy. But like any technology, they can also be harnessed by bad actors — and put to use making the internet a less healthy, more dangerous place.”

      People, don’t use decentralized structures! Some bad actors abuse them to hurt your feelings! Trust big brother! Big brother protects you from all evil!

  5. Anon7 said on March 6, 2021 at 2:34 am


    > Now you can just not use any google site, software or product and don’t get spied

    I’m sorry to inform you, but you have no idea what you are talking about.

    The goolag have their tracking domains on basically every website you visit, think doubleclick, goolag analytics, goolag tag manager etc.

    So yes, they spy on you even when you do not use their services.

    Go to bed.

  6. Anonymous said on March 5, 2021 at 12:26 pm

    Ghacks amplifying Google’s propaganda by making it look like FLOC is good for privacy.

    No, there are two different things happening here.

    One, Google plans to stop its tracking by third-party cookies, fine, not sure how much how it is because they are breaking the law anyway, or to screw competing trackers that don’t have Google’s other ways to spy, or a mixture of both.

    Two, Google plans to add a new tracking system inside the browser. Not fine at all. But when the press if funded by ads and tracking, don’t expect it to give a non-corrupt account of Google’s actions to its billions of exploited victims.

    1. J4 said on March 5, 2021 at 4:38 pm

      So you are concerned for other spies because they won’t be able to spy? I think it’s hilarious moaning about the death of 3rd party cookies. All you bitches were complaining about them, that they track you all over the internet. You had to be spied by google even if you didn’t use their stuff. Now you can just not use any google site, software or product and don’t get spied. Simple. Use all your amazing privacy alternatives, they are so much better, right? Use what you like and leave others alone.

      1. Anonymous said on March 9, 2021 at 4:23 pm

        “Use what you like and leave others alone.”

        Google is the one enforcing its malware on almost everybody through its quasi-monopolistic position and lies (and the main competitors are not very different). All I am doing is informing about this malicious behavior. Not only we hardly have any lever to fight back the oppression of surveillance capitalism, but we shouldn’t even denounce it or recommend alternatives, that would be “intolerance” ? Soon we’re going to be the bad guys.

      2. Anonymous said on March 9, 2021 at 11:53 am

        “I think it’s hilarious moaning about the death of 3rd party cookies.”

        It’s not, really not, at all implied in what I said. I leave it to the right-wing ideologues to say that the solution to Google tracking would be more tracking from competitors. I just pointed that third-party cookies dying would be a good thing but that Google has no altruistic or privacy motives here and plans to replace it with something else that is extremely invasive too, and for some aspects, worse. And that they tried to pass their new tracking system as something positive for privacy just because they promised to stop using another one, which is manipulative and shouldn’t be repeated as is in the press.

        And to expand on that, while their floc system is already tested in the real world, what they said about stopping third-party cookie use remains nothing but a promise currently.

      3. SpywareFan said on March 6, 2021 at 10:08 am

        …And what about spyGoogle server-side tagging or amp? 3p cookies, scripts, pings, prefetch, etc. can be blocked, new spyGoogle techniques not.

        “Now you can just not use any google site, software or product and don’t get spied”

        “Use what you like and leave others alone”
        It’s not about choice, it’s about transparence.

  7. Anonymoose said on March 5, 2021 at 1:52 am

    Hold on, let me get this straight – GOOGLE is talking about creating a privacy-first web? Now I know hell truly has frozen over, and the Devil himself walks among us, laughing uproariously at people’s idiocy and gullibility.

    1. Anonymous said on March 5, 2021 at 12:36 pm

      Privacy-first ?

      “This is, in a word, bad for privacy. A flock name would essentially be a behavioral credit score: a tattoo on your digital forehead that gives a succinct summary of who you are, what you like, where you go, what you buy, and with whom you associate. The flock names will likely be inscrutable to users, but could reveal incredibly sensitive information to third parties. Trackers will be able to use that information however they want, including to augment their own behind-the-scenes profiles of users.”

    2. Anonymous said on March 5, 2021 at 7:04 am

      No, Google is talking about eliminating the competition.

      1. Anonymous said on March 5, 2021 at 10:11 am

        Its newspeak, like Brave cares about your “privacy” by being an advertising platform

      2. Iron Heart said on March 5, 2021 at 12:30 pm


        Oh, another commenter who doesn’t know how Brave Ads work:

        Not that I think it’s of any use to you – because after all haters gonna hate, just clearing up this stuff for others.

  8. allen said on March 4, 2021 at 11:58 pm

    Groups, huh? …so, as in, “birds of a feather” …?

    1. woger said on March 5, 2021 at 1:32 pm

      birds of a feather, Brave and Google, both advertising platforms

      1. Iron Heart said on March 5, 2021 at 2:12 pm


        > Brave and Google, both advertising platforms

        The world can be so simple at times.

  9. Anon7 said on March 4, 2021 at 4:36 pm

    Gulag are the scum of the earth. They are so evil, that even their own employees quit in disgust. They quit because gulag had a contract with military to provide AI for drones. Project Maven.

    Look up google employees resign in protest, project maven. They even launched a petition aswell to stop the evil lol.

    When you use their products you are feeding into their AI systems and people could be inadvertedly supporting wars and chaos,

    Completely unethical!

    Google has been involved in multiple lawsuits regarding privacy, advertising, intellectual property issues etc

    But the gulag cares about your privacy now? Jesus A Christ!

    If you see a google product in close proximity to you, just run, think of them as the skynet from the terminator franchise.

    And their their self driving cars? Now people will be trusting the gulag with their lives.

    May God help us all!

    1. Trey said on March 4, 2021 at 8:10 pm

      That’s good. Now some other company has a chance to develop AI for military uses. Why should Google get all the fat government contracts.

      1. MC said on March 5, 2021 at 6:56 am

        Trey, before writing something do some research. Microsoft is the one getting the fat government contracts, not Google.

    2. SpywareFan said on March 4, 2021 at 7:07 pm

      Well said!

      1. SpywareFan said on March 5, 2021 at 7:58 am

        My comment was referred to what Anon7 wrote.

        Juvenile name-callin? Probably he/she should have used the correct definition for the Evil Corp: The Cancerâ„¢
        Advertising profiles for services? If it was only an useless/unwanted advertising spam issue… What about mass surveillance, censorship and manipulation? Do they really need to profile people (harvest all their data and do psycological profiling) to monetize?
        I know that for the most is hard, but people should avoid The Cancerâ„¢ software and services, before it’s too late.

        Surveillance Capitalism (Shoshana Zuboff)
        Permanent Record (Edward Snowden)
        World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech (Franklin Foer)

    3. ShintoPlasm said on March 4, 2021 at 6:02 pm

      Not Google’s biggest fan myself, but could we please refrain from juvenile name-calling (“gulag” smh) and hyperbole (“skynet”) which only degrades the level of discussion?

      1. binocry said on March 5, 2021 at 10:09 am

        Ban freedom of speech and the wokefox fanbois with their failfox

    4. MC said on March 4, 2021 at 5:43 pm

      You seem very upset if they are capable now to monetize without creating personal advertising profiles for the services they offer us free of charge.
      I get it, your whole world collapses, evil Gulag gets my data and makes personal profiles of me. God should help you indeed.

      1. TheCriticalThinker said on March 6, 2021 at 11:30 am
      2. Anon7 said on March 5, 2021 at 1:39 pm


        The goolag IS literally skynet from the terminator movies. I’m not joking, when you use their products you are feeding into their AI product development infrastructure in one way or another. That AI in turn gets put into military contracts where robots are created military.

        But hey, don’t let me stop you from using the GOOLAG, its your choice to use them, but i like to criticise them.

        Feel free to call me a conspiracy theorist with low IQ or what have you, like another poster in some other news article here.

        To me those insults are water off a ducks back lol.

      3. MC said on March 5, 2021 at 4:23 pm

        Anon7 Anonymoose whatever, seriously how old are you? Second what is wrong with skynet? Don’t watch too many movies, Arnold won’t come to kill you human lmao.

      4. Anonymoose said on March 6, 2021 at 3:00 am

        Old enough to know what privacy means and who is eroding it, clearly unlike you MC. How old are *you*? You seem to be one of those millennials who grew up posting attention-seeking updates about every second of your life on social media and thinks that’s how the world always was and must be.

      5. Anon7 said on March 6, 2021 at 2:50 am


        > Second what is wrong with skynet?

        I think it is a good analogy to compare the goolag with skynet from those movies.

        You use goolag chrome, are you comfortable with them harvesting millions of peoples data and using it for AI systems for military?

        Killer robots like Arnie are not a thing of fiction. Robotics have become highly intelligent as of late.

        Look at goolags voice assistant, the more people feed into it, the more intelligent it gets. Very dangerous IMO.

        But laugh it all off if it makes you feel any better. You people are creating a surveillance prison in your homes for yourselves that feeds back to goolag HQ.

      6. Anonymoose said on March 5, 2021 at 1:50 am

        They offer absolutely NOTHING “free of charge”. It’s precisely this kind of stupid thinking that allows Google, FB and all other similar scum from getting away with their nonsense, because crazy people think they’re all altruists who’re offering us services for free out of the goodness of their hearts.

        Is it really news to you in 2021 that they are monetizing YOU and that you’re the product? Haven’t you ever heard the saying that there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch (TANSTAAFL)?

      7. MC said on March 5, 2021 at 6:50 am

        Anonymoose, Yes they offer them free of charge. I check my bank accounts regulary.
        Yes, they monetizing me, everybody does, others get money from my bank accounts (with my permission), others give me ads for their products (with my permission).
        What makes you think other people should work for free? What are you a spoiled brat, a master who thinks others should work for you for free like slaves or something like that?

      8. Anonymoose said on March 6, 2021 at 2:53 am

        MC, tell me, are you blind or simply *that* dumb? Where did I say anyone should work for free?

        No, the products/services are NOT free. Ignorant people like you who can’t get this simple fact into their heads is precisely why we have the current dismal state of affairs.

  10. ryuk said on March 4, 2021 at 11:39 am

    Google will do it just for fun.

    1. Anonymous said on March 4, 2021 at 11:18 pm

      Brave must be wet in anticipation of yet another way to monetize it’s users

  11. ryuk said on March 4, 2021 at 11:37 am

    Google will do it just for fun.

  12. Anonymous said on March 4, 2021 at 9:29 am

    > FLoC

    So something like the “black box” in Brave that mysteriously watches everything you do and type to monetize you

    1. Anonymous said on March 4, 2021 at 4:24 pm

      “Black Box?” Isn’t Brave open source–the definition of not being a black box?

    2. Iron Heart said on March 4, 2021 at 12:21 pm


      Brave doesn’t collect user data. Please provide proof for your accusations.

    3. banana_split said on March 4, 2021 at 11:59 am

      > So something like the “black box” in Brave

      Ooh, I bet Iron Heart will praise this then

  13. m3city said on March 4, 2021 at 8:39 am

    That is crap. The sole purpose of google chrome existance is to fuel their profits through advertising. What a twisted idea when you think what the internet was supposed to be. It’s beyond me how power users can promote chrome over FF – this novelty is just for tracking and advertising. And if I understand correctly last paragraphs, it might become a gaping hole to suck data anyway. Individually.

    As a more personal note, I tried to explain to my inlaws (that use smartphone and google services exclusively) the importance of privacy, dangers of google being the monopolist. It was completely pointless.

    1. Anon7 said on March 6, 2021 at 9:50 am


      Ignorance is bliss!

      But you know what the scary thing is? a lot of people now are carrying goolag smartphones in their pocket 24/7 and having goolag assistant voice app turned on running in the background collecting conversation voice snippets to goolag cloud services.

      When you talk to your friends now in real life, it is almost like the goolag is standing there as another person,

      Maybe that is why they call their mobile OS android?

      Android, definition : mobile robot or automaton, especially one that resembles a human

      But hey i’m just a conspiracy theorist apparently.

    2. Yuliya said on March 4, 2021 at 12:58 pm

      Nobody with a functioning cerebellum sugests using chrome or firefox. There are better browsers (<-plural) out there.

      1. Anonymoose said on March 5, 2021 at 1:22 am

        These are the two main foundational browsers on which (almost) all the rest are built, so between Firefox and Chrome anyone with a functioning cerebellum who cares even a modicum about privacy will obviously suggest the former.

      2. J4 said on March 5, 2021 at 10:29 am

        Firefox has become a religion instead of a piece of software lol. Stop fighting over software. You can do better. Use what you like and leave others alone.

    3. banana_split said on March 4, 2021 at 12:13 pm

      > The sole purpose of google chrome existance is to fuel their profits through advertising

      Exactly the same goal as Brave

      1. Iron Heart said on March 4, 2021 at 7:47 pm


        Except Brave uses privacy-respecting local machine learning while Google wants to transfer user data to their own servers. But hey, it’s literally the same thing, right? You read the word “advertising”, so it must be the same thing…

      2. dtg654mldiw9 said on March 7, 2021 at 6:01 am

        Brave ships with telemetry on by default, how disgusting. Iron Heart must immediately disown Brave. No wait, he is a hypocrit

    4. Anonymous said on March 4, 2021 at 11:40 am

      Firefox still exists because of Google honey. Google pays FF’s bills. Grow up “power” child, that’s how the world works, with money.

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