Last month, Google announced plans to introduce a new Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) feature to replace third-party cookies used by ad networks and analytics platforms to track users.
Let me remind you that just recently, the DuckDuckGo developers warned that Google’s widely discussed plan to refuse third-party cookies in Chrome by the end of 2022-2023, as well as the related restrictions already implemented in other browsers, will not prevent manufacturers from tracking users.
At the time, DuckDuckGo head Gabriel Weinberg wrote that Google’s technologies designed to replace third-party cookies (including FLoC) and related ad delivery methods, supposedly designed with an emphasis on privacy, can still be useful for tracking people. In particular, FLoC aims to assign interest group identifiers to users and can be combined with an IP address, ultimately becoming a unique identifier for a specific person.
“Thus, any tracker that receives both, can be used to track and navigate user behavior exceptionally well without third-party cookies or anything else, ”Weinberg said.
It should also be noted that FLoC was immediately criticized by experts from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), calling it “terrible idea“Because Chrome is essentially going to share a summary of each user’s recent activity with marketers. And now the developers Vivaldi and Brave have turned out to be using FLoC.
The creators of Vivaldi and Brave said they would not support the technology shortly after Google made public their plans to test FLoC on a small group of Chrome users, which will automatically be included in the pilot project.
“Google’s new data collection tool is disgusting. FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) is a new ad technology designed to replace third-party cookies and similar tools like localStorage. This is an openly dangerous move that violates user privacy.
At Vivaldi, we always protect the privacy of our users. We do not allow tracking of user activity or the creation of their behavioral profiles, in any form. We do not even allow our own products to create local behavioral user profiles ”, – stated head of Vivaldi Jon von Techner.
This opinion is shared by other experts. So, blog The Brave Developers states:
“The worst aspect of FLoC is that it causes significant harm to user privacy in the guise of providing that very privacy.”
The fight against new technology has already begun. So, EFF specialists have launched a special website, AmIFloced.org, where any user can check if Google is testing FLoC in their browser. In turn, DuckDuckGo engineers released an extension Privacy Essentials for Chrome and other browsers that can block FLoC. In addition, site owners who do not want to work with FLoC can block it by sending their visitors the following HTTP request header:
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