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Google FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) is a new technology for ad-targeting that Google is experimenting with.

What Is Google FLoC?

FLoC provides a privacy-preserving mechanism for interest-based ad selection.”

Google

In theory, Google FLoC is supposed to be less invasive than the cookies used today. But the end result is supposed to be the same – track user search behavior across websites for ad-targeting.

How Does FLoC Work?

Recently, Google launched a developer trial of FLoC to some random people using Chrome (without asking those users to opt-in).

The basic idea is that a FLoC powered browser (in this case, Chrome) will use an internal algorithm to lump users into “cohorts” based upon their internet browsing behavior. Online ads are then created and displayed based upon a user’s cohort ID rather than personal data that is gathered through cookies (as retargeting and other strategies do now).

What Does Google FLoC Mean for Physicians?

FLoC will likely have an impact on physicians who use pay-per-click advertising (PPC) as part of their online marketing strategy.

The main reason is that if you are using cookies on your site now, rather than being able to retarget an individual patient, you will only be able to target their cohort ID. This may cause some limitations in the effectiveness of PPC advertising for some physicians.

Keeping an Eye on FLoC

Google FLoC is in the very early stages right now and not yet rolled out to everyone. There could be some headwinds from both users and governments to this new approach to ad-targeting.

User Objections

On the surface, FLoC sounds somewhat appealing from a privacy standpoint. Cutting down on the invasive way cookies can track and retarget you and collect personal details doesn’t sound all bad as a user.

However, Google still owns and has somewhat of a monopoly on a user’s search data. Many people, despite continuing to use Google, do not trust Google with their data. This has facilitated the recent growth trend with privacy-centered search engines such as DuckDuckGo.

Government Objections

Even though governments largely benefit from the user data Google provides as their requests, some are thinking that it is anti-competitive for Google to have all of the data, and no one else. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has already begun leading a multi-state antitrust case against Google FLoC.

Next Steps for Physicians

Google is committed to FLoC and a “cookie-less user experience” by 2022. The first significant migration to FLoC will actually happen here in 2Q21.

As a physician, you will need to make sure that any lead capturing done on your personal website is compliant with Google’s first-party data standards. This is important because lead-capturing on your website becomes more important now because website visitor data is going to be more challenging to capture.

Yes, we’re in the early stages of Google FLoC, and there could be some headwinds, but it will likely be a long time (if ever) for those headwinds to reverse this tide. It’s best to begin updating and taking action to be successful in this new environment now, especially before your local competition does.