Google to Stop Using User-Level Identifiers

Google Security iconsOn March 3, Google explicitly stated that once third-party cookies are phased out, it will not build user-level identifiers to track individuals across the web, nor will it use user-level identifiers in its products. This is a game-changer for Google’s core business model and that of the digital advertising marketplace. 

Google’s stance 

Solutions to replace third-party cookies that continue using user-level identifiers  

Google has started an initiative called Privacy Sandbox tadvance internet privacy standards while developing new ways to deliver relevant adsAfter all, “Many publishers have been able to continue to invest in freely accessible content because they can be confident that their advertising will fund their costs (Justin Schuh, Director Chrome Engineering). 

While the future of digital advertising may look different, our strategists are in dialogue to plan for these changes to ensure our ability to connect consumers with the products and services they are seeking online. Here’s what our experts are saying: 

Patience Carter, Paid Media Strategist  

From my understanding this recent announcement is a continuation of Google’s January announcement and introduction to Federated Learning oCohortsFLoCFLoC is a new way that browsers could continue interest-based advertising on the web, in which companies observe the browsing behavior of a cohort of similar people. FLoC audiences would hide individuals in the crowd, keeping user’s web history private on the browser – moving from learning about personal users (cookie-based) to learning about all users or a group of users instead. Google mentioned initially this testing would be available for beta/public testing in Q2 2021.  

FLoC audiences would be lookalike audiences created by the AI – protecting the privacy of individuals. We will, however, lose visibility into how audiences are built.  

 While there is still uncertainty, I think we will see the biggest changes and impacts here:  

  • Third party-based retargeting 
  • Frequency capping 
  • Exclusions 
  • User level attribution 
  • Deterministic targeting 
  • If we are losing cookies, this would in some way too impact View Through Conversions – which would possibly impact the measurement of video, display, social and the effectiveness of multichannel campaigns
  • Interesting enough, this would be across all of Google’s products, including YouTube and Campaign Manager (not sure if we would lose some Floodlight reporting capabilities, but it’s possible) 

Bidding shouldn’t be a huge issue, but a concern is that we would have to determine which FLoC audience includes our target audience. 

Leo Chen, Director of Analytics 

The cookie-less transition overall will force us to use fewer functions that are based on predetermined rules (e.g. frequency capping). 

Data are so disconnected everywhere, and users are getting more and more difficult to track as individuals due to increased regulations. 

However, AI makes it possible to learn based on cohorts and find other data patterns we didn’t use before. 

It might mean less control for us. But we may get more behavior data in the future.


This is a developing story that widely impacts the digital advertising industry. Location3 will continue to bring you the latest from our industry leaders.

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