Google Facing Lawsuit Over Location Data and FloC Has Been Replaced With 'Topics'

2 min 37 sec read
January 26, 2022
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We have two things to talk about in this 3MDD. One being related and unrelated at the same time. But first, let's get into the legal drama, so you can see how it ties in with Google's latest announcement.

A new lawsuit targets Google over how it gets its location data and how the company profits from tracking it.

Web Browser Showing Scale of Justice Location Pin on Map As Google Faces Lawsuit Over Location Tracking
Google is being "accused of using 'dark patterns' to get more location data from its users and profit from better search results and Google Ads."

Washington D.C.'s Attorney General, Karl A. Racine, claims that the company is being deceptive and using unfair business practices to gather location data and is therefore suing the tech giant over it.

Three other states (Texas, Washington, and Indiana) are expected to file the same lawsuit.

Here's why we care as digital marketers. Location data is not only important to Google but to us. It provides valuable context about our target audiences and helps local businesses who use Google Ads to reach more customers.

These local ads turn online interactions into real-world actions when they step foot inside that business.

For PPC, Google Ads uses location targeting for a reason, and it's designed "to help you show the right ads to the right customer at the right time in the right place."

Google is being sued because they're collecting and profiting from the data of its users over time. This could "expose a person's identity, routines, and one can infer from that to know even more about their personal life.

You can use location to infer a person's political or religious affiliation; you can tell what their gender, income, health status, etc., are. And it's possible to know if they're going through major life events like marriage, divorce, and the birth of children.

Google leveraging location data is extremely powerful. They can monitor people's lives with its range of smart home products, phones, and software to gather analytics and data.

Google gathers data on billions of people and targets ads to people for products and services that they didn't even realize they needed. They're also studying their habits, interests, and the other things we mentioned earlier and more.

Those dark patterns mentioned in the lawsuit accuse Google of using "misleading pressure tactics, and evasive and deceptive descriptions of location features and settings."

So in response, Google created a page to tell users that they can opt-out of location tracking and showed users how to delete their location history if they wanted to.

At the same time, Google encourages users not to turn off location tracking because they want to reap the benefits of having personalized recommendations based on the places they've visited.

So this brings us to their announcement of how they'll be gathering data in the cookie-less future.

Remember Floc AKA the Federated Learning of Cohorts? Well, if you do or don't, it doesn't matter. Google officially killed FloC off. It was an ad targeting proposal to replace 3rd-party cookies, and now the company is introducing "Topics" to replace FloC.

Topics is a simplified version FloC. It prevents "fingerprinting," which means that it won't allow advertisers to target people and pull information about their devices to pinpoint their identities.

The way Topics works is by assigning individual users three topics that advertisers and publishers can use for targeted ads.

These topics could range from fitness, travel, and what type of music they like, for example. Still, it won't show sensitive information like a user's race or gender, etc.

Over 300 topics are being tested, and it could grow to the thousands. Every three weeks, the topics are deleted. And users are allowed to disable Topics and can even delete specific interests about them.

This new method of gathering data is set to launch in 2023 when Google officially drops third-party cookies from Chrome. Topics will be the new method of how advertisers target specific ads based on their interests.

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