Well, we all know how these third-party cookies exist, tracking our browsing activities and those annoying ads, but recently Google announced a new tracking method called Federated Learning of Cohorts, or FLoC, as part of the “privacy sandbox” initiative it announced in 2019. Have a look at Google’s FLoC and how it works.
Google claims its replacement for cookies will better protect user data, but many people remain unconvinced.
What Is FLoC ?
While tracking cookies on the decline – partially due to many browsers like Brave, Opera etc blocking third-party cookies by default—Google wants to come up with another way to track user data for targeted ads. That’s where FLoC comes in.
The FLoC lets advertisers use behavioural targeting without cookies. It runs in Google’s Chrome browser and tracks a user’s online behaviour.
FLoC runs in your browser. It uses your browsing history from the past week to assign you to a group with other “similar” people around the world.
Each group receives a label, called a FLoC ID, which is supposed to capture meaningful information about your habits and interests. it then displays this label to everyone you interact with on the web.
Many are speaking out against the FLoC.
In a post entitled “Google’s FLoC Is a Terrible Idea,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) says that Google is using a false dichotomy when it comes to privacy.
Firefox, a web browser, has said that it won’t adopt FLoC, although it is looking into other advertising options that preserve privacy.
Browsers that have branched from Chrome, like Brave and Vivaldi, aren’t going to implement it. Apple has also said that it won’t use it in its Safari browser.
As of April 2021, Microsoft has disabled the feature in Microsoft Edge, its Chromium-derived browser.
New Privacy Concerns
As it creates new privacy concerns by trying to address old ones while still keeping targeted ads. One of those concerns is fingerprinting.
Quick note :- Browser fingerprinting is the ability to take separate pieces of information from someone’s browser and construct them into a reliable identifier for a specific person.
The more unique your browsing behaviour, the easier you are to fingerprint because that behaviour sets you apart from the group.
This makes it easier to identify you with browser fingerprinting, and it gives trackers a head start on profiling you.
If you’ve logged in to a site with Google to use a service, for example, information like your name and login credentials will already be saved.
This information can be used to tie your cohort ID, which is supposed to be anonymous, to your user profile.
Google is already running a trial of FLoC on about 0.5% of users in regions that include Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines, and the United States.
check whether you’re one of those users at the EFF’s site “Am I FLoCed?“, And that was our article on What Is Google’s FLoC
If you are concerned about this new change and want to disable it on your Chrome browser, here is a step-by-step guide for the same.