Privacy and value exchange are very topical at the moment in Australia, not least because of recent confrontations between Google, Facebook and regulators, but Google’s recent announcement* has just kicked it up a gear. 

Looking at this a little more closely, questions emerge: Are Google really championing privacy for the consumer? And, what will it mean for consumers and businesses at the end of the day?


In a *blog post earlier this week, Google indicated that they would not “build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will we use them in our products” post 3rd party cookies being phased out. 

While Google called out that they “will continue to support first-party relationships on our ad platforms for partners” they have also made it pretty clear that they are focussing on their ‘privacy preserving APIs’ within the Privacy Sandbox initiative

One notable API within the Privacy Sandbox leverages an approach rather aptly named FLoC or ‘Federated Learning of Cohorts’. 

In simple terms, this means that instead of profiling/targeting individuals, thousands of people with similar interests will be clustered for targeting anonymously. Interestingly, Google has already revealed that internal tests of FLoC yielded similar performance to 1-to-1 targeting; and wider testing and validation of this is sure to follow.

Now, cynics may be forgiven for wondering if Google could be championing its own interests here under the auspices of the consumer’s interest? And, with these moves, they might also wonder if Google might be motivated to influence the rules of engagement on how to achieve relevance in advertising across the web? Or perhaps, that Google might like to raise the height of their ‘walled garden’? 

Time will tell how regulators will interpret this and whether they’ll add to a growing list of competition probes around the world on related issues. 

A consumer perspective

Taking a step back though and bringing focus back to the consumer, we can reasonably ask the question: Will there be tangible benefits for the average web user; ‘net-net’? 

Based on what I have managed to glean from reading Google’s docs/blog posts, consumers can expect a simple on off option for targeting as described here. People will also benefit being targeted as a cohort rather than an individual.

But otherwise, the answer broadly seems to be not that much – yet. We can of course speculate that future developments will include provision of greater fidelity and nuance in the available controls. 

Bottom Line

Developments are ongoing and so consumers (and industry observers) must continue to pay close attention to these important and emergent initiatives.

It is important to dig through the detail of what is being proposed, and encourage elected representatives to ensure that regulators are also championing consumer interests and the interests of businesses other than the big players (Google et al).

The implication for businesses on the back of this, is to recognise that this increases priority of first party data assets and associated capability to drive relevancy in ‘owned’ customer prospect channels.

Read my article on Outlook for the Anz market 2021

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