Amazon Blocks Google FLoC. Expert Commentary

17 June 2021

Amazon has blocked FLoC technology from its services , which Google plans to use for targeting without third-party cookies in the Chrome browser. Now FLoC system can not collect user data on a number of sites belonging to the Amazon, in particular WholeFoods, Zappos, ShopBop and GoodReads. This is reported by Digiday, which, with the help of three technology experts, analyzed the code of the online retailer’s sites. Amazon declined to comment on the matter.

What is Google FLoC?

FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) is a new Google technology that allows the Chrome browser to categorize people with similar interests into so-called cohorts. At the same time, each user’s search history remains confidential and is never shared with third parties. For example, you visit a specific site, Chrome tells the website that the visitor is part of the 77777 cohort, and the site in turn needs to know that the 77777 cohort is interested in, say, board games or vegan leather accessories.

Google believes that cohort-based technology will allow advertisers to target ads to relevant target audiences while maintaining privacy for users. However, not everyone in the advertising industry is supportive of the new solution. Google. And Brave and Vivaldi openly criticized FLoC this spring. In their opinion, using this tool will only worsen the problem of user privacy.

How did it all start?

Last week, Amazon added code to some of its sites that blocks the FLoC user tracking system. If at the beginning of last week and did not include a code to block FLoC, already on Thursday these sites prohibited Google from using the activity of their visitors to inform cohorts or assigning an ID. But blocking FLoC doesn’t seem to be all-encompassing. For example, one of Digiday’s tech experts recorded that both sites were blocking FLoC, while another expert objected, noting that Amazon could only deploy blocks on certain servers and in certain parts of the United States.

In addition, the code is not included in the Amazon AbeBook marketplaces. The company likely has some specific reason for allowing Google trackers to track what content and books AbeBooks visitors are interested in. Industry experts believe that Amazon can test this way, for example, by examining what exactly the FLoC ID can tell about the interests of visitors outside the site.

Amazon can also check how the data, based on its own tracking and targeting methods, matches Google’s results in a benchmark test. It is not yet known if Amazon will turn off FLoC on AbeBook.

Why Amazon?

By its actions, Amazon is not only undermining Google’s plan (to manage the future of digital ad tracking after disabling 3rd-party cookies), but also starting to openly pull the blanket over itselfit is about developing its own advertising tools.

First, Amazon wants to protect its intellectual propertydata about what users search, read, and buy. June 21-22, Amazon Prime Day is expected to have a large influx of shoppers, so it’s time to stop Google from harvesting valuable data. Adtech companies and agencies collect and analyze FLoC ID data to improve targeting and identification capabilities. So, letting Google or other adtech companies take advantage of valuable customer data is not in Amazon’s best interest.

As a consequence, without Amazon visitors, Google FLoC could be at a huge disadvantage. According to the anonymous expert, if Amazon had decided not to block FLoC, it would have significantly helped Google by providing them with important in-market shopping data.

Secondly, blocking FLoC is also a competitive solution. Amazon aims to increase its ad revenue, which is now controlled by Google, by selling digital ads outside of its ecosystem. As Amazon’s DSP business begins to grow, the company plans to launch its own ID to track and measure advertising for products through the company’s DSP and Amazon Publisher Services.

However, due to the blocking of FLoC, Amazon may also lose useful information. Like other Publishers that interfere with FLoC, Amazon will not be able to retrieve some data on user behavior. But, perhaps, this information is not very important for the company, given the amount of data on registered users, Amazon has.

Earlier Google also announced that FLoC technology will not work in Europe yet.

Expert commentary by Ivan Fedorov, New Business Director at Admixer

First of all, it should be noted that we are talking about blocking the FLoC initiative during the testing period. By launching testing of cohort targeting technology, Google allowed publishers to exclude their resources from the list of data that is collected by the user’s browser to build cohorts. Amazon took advantage of this opportunity. Whether such an option will be available in the final version of FLoC is still unknown.

Disabling Amazon resources at this stage could impact technology testing, especially in e-commerce, where Amazon is the leader in the US market. Advertisers are testing traditional targeting methods versus FLOC and, accordingly, test conditions will vary.

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