Google has recently begun testing its new piece of web technology called Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) in Chrome browser. This new technology is meant to replace third-party cookies by preserving users’ privacy and giving advertisers similar results to third-party cookies. But not everyone is happy about this including some Chrome desktop alternatives like DuckDuckGo, Brave, and Vivaldi and calling it a “step in the wrong direction.”
Now Google’s FLoC works by grouping Chrome users into “cohorts” based on their similar browsing history and interests. Google claims that this approach is more private ad secure as advertisers and sites will only see group IDs instead of browsing the history of the user. But some privacy advocates, DuckDuckGo, Brave, and Vivaldi don’t agree with this. And think that FLoC can become an even worse solution than the problem it tries to fix. All three (DuckDuckGo, Brave, and Vivaldi) have published blog posts raising their concerns openly against FLoC.
DuckDuckGo was the first to speak out saying that it will be releasing a Chrome extension that will block FLoC’s tracking and further targeted Google for automatically enabling FLoC for millions without even asking them:
If you’re a Google Chrome user, you might be surprised to learn that you could have been entered automatically into Google’s new tracking method called Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC). It groups you based on your interests and demographics, derived from your browsing history, to enable creepy advertising and another content targeting without third-party cookies… If you’re reading this in Chrome while logged in to a Google account, yes, that likely means you too, and if not now, then eventually.
After that Brave announced that it has removed FLoC in the Nightly version of both Brave for desktop and Android, and called out Google for FLoC, and stated it as “misleading” in a blog post:
Google says FLoC is privacy-preserving compared to sending third-party cookies. But this is a misleading baseline to compare against. Many browsers don’t send third-party cookies at all; Brave hasn’t ever. Saying a new Chrome feature is privacy-improving only when compared to status-quo Chrome (the most privacy-harming popular browser on the market), is misleading, self-serving, and a further reason for users to run away from Chrome.
And recently Vivaldi has also questioned Google about FLoC, highlighting the large scale problems with it:
FLoC does have very serious implications for people who live in an environment where aspects of their personality are persecuted — be it sexuality, political viewpoint, or religion. All can become a part of your FLoC ID. A dictatorship may be able to work out that dissenters often seem to have one of the same five FLoC IDs. Now anyone who visits a nationally controlled website with that ID could be at risk. A country that outlaws certain religions or sexualities could do the same.
As you can see all three platforms (DuckDuckGo, Brave, and Vivaldi) have blocked Google’s FLoC technology, meaning that anyone who will use these browsers has FLoC disabled by default. And if you use Chrome and want to disable FLoC, just go into your browser’s Privacy and Security settings and choose “Block third-party cookies,” or can install the DuckDuckGo’s chrome extensions.