The rollout of Google's new Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) planned for later this year has been delayed after it was met with criticism and concern for its lack of user privacy in its current version by a number of individuals and organisations including every major browser that uses the open-source Chromium project.
Many have voiced their concerns regarding FLoC, additionally, those that use the open-source Chromium project such as Brave, Vivaldi, etc, have not committed to using the new mechanism in its current build.
Because of this, Google is going back to the drawing board regarding their latest solution to combat third-party cookie tracking by nearly two years following these concerns and after the European Commission opened a wide-ranging investigation into Google's digital advertising business to examine its "plans to prohibit the placement of third party 'cookies' on Chrome and replace them with the 'Privacy Sandbox' set of tools," and assess its "effects on online display advertising and online display advertising intermediation markets."
The delay allows the search giant to spend time refining the mechanism as well as engage with regulators in an attempt to reach a consensus on the right solutions for securely protecting a user's data and privacy.
Announced in January 2020, FLoC is an essential part of Google's Privacy Sandbox which aims to retire support for third-party cookies in Chrome. Instead, FLoC’s purpose is to classify users into cohorts based on their interests, which can then be used by the ad tech industry to tailor ads.
Due to Google's major competitors Firefox and Safari already blocking third-party cookies by default, the pressure is now on for Google to match the pace however, this puts the search giant in the unenviable position of having to balance demands for stronger user-privacy protection and maintain its dominant role while facing the heat from privacy advocates, regulators, publishers and advertisers.
The new mechanism has been credited as a compelling idea but appears to still be on a long road until full functionality can be reached and a secure alternative can be implemented.
In other words, if you are concerned about what Chrome is doing with your data and have experienced the intrusiveness of advertisements while using the browser, Firefox or Safari are a better alternative for stopping third-party cookies from tailoring advertisements regarding your recent search history or queries as these automatically get blocked.
This is not to say that Safari or Firefox is completely blocking advertising, it simply means your privacy feels more secure as your recent search results will have a less significant impact on what you see.